by David Murphy
The Coach's Rule is my own creation and it goes like this: if you're coaching, assistant coaching or otherwise involved with directing a childrens' sporting event or other activity outdoors, as soon as you hear thunder, end the activity and get everyone off the field and into cover. Why? Thunder means lightning is in the area. Lightning is capable of traveling sideways from its parent thunderstorm as far as ten miles; sometimes even farther. If you hear thunder, you absolutely are within striking distance, even if you can't see a storm.
Each year, we receive video here at Action News of what can happen if you don't obey my Coach's Rule: bodies of children strewn about a soccer or baseball field, having just been shocked by a nearby lightning strike. Keep in mind that the charge from a bolt of lightning spreads out across the surface of the earth after it hits, as it's diffused into the ground. This is why multiple players are often affected by the lightning strike. Also, the worst injury occurs when a victim has two feet contacting the ground either inches or feet apart---the electricity enters one foot and surges through the body on its way to the other foot, causing serious shock and burns. Kids on a playing field are especially at risk because very rarely, do they stand with their feet together while playing sports. Of course, every person on an open field is a target for a direct hit from a lightning strike, including coaches, parents and other spectators.