Choosing the Right Sport and Physical Activity Program for Your Child

— National Association for Sport and Physical Education
Updated on Apr 11, 2011

There has been a proliferation of programs promoting sport and physical activity for children and youth. Due to diversity in program philosophies, objectives, facilities, and leadership, it is imperative that parents/guardians assess program quality, both initially and periodically, to determine if the program will be a positive experience for their child-physically, socially and emotionally.

Participation in youth sports and physical activity programs can contribute positively to the development of:

  • Physical fitness & a healthy lifestyle
  • Self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Motor skills
  • Social skills
  • Sportsmanship and ethics
  • Fun & enjoyment of physical activity

The development of these important life skills should be central in a quality program. This checklist is designed to help parents assess program quality.

Consider each of the following statements as you evaluate school or community based physical activity programs for your child. Also consider the characteristics of your child (skill level, maturity, interests, special needs) in relation to each area and its components.

Administration and Organization of the Program

There are written policies for the program that include:

  • Philosophy of program
  • Selection of coaches and officials
  • Training of coaches and officials
  • Parental education and involvement
  • Number and length of practices, contests and tournaments appropriate for age group
  • Selection of teams based on age, size, skill and emotional development

The philosophy of the program includes:

  • Adequate participation in practices and contests with no discrimination based on ability, gender or race
  • Development of fair play, teamwork and sportsmanship
  • Having fun
  • Emphasis on winning with individual and team awards kept in proper perspective
  • Communication with coaches, parents officials and participants
  • Evaluation of coaches, officials and program

Parental education includes:

  • Requirements of the program include costs, insurance coverage, practices and contests
  • Rules and regulations of the program and sport
  • Proper conduct showing respect and support of the coaches and officials
  • How to be a positive supporter

Safety Considerations

  • Facilities are clean and hygienic
  • Equipment and competition areas are safe and in good repair with regular inspection, maintenance and replacement schedules in place
  • Equipment is selected/adjusted based on the size and skill level of participants
  • Practice and competition areas are free of obstacles and hazardous materials
  • Necessary safety equipment is present (e.g., mats, protectors, body gear, spotting rigs)
  • First aid supplies are on site and accessible at all times. First aid supplies are regularly inspected and replaced as used/needed
  • Emergency medical forms, provisions and personnel are available and easily accessible
  • The ratio of coaches/staff (1:10) to participants is appropriate for providing adequate instruction, supervision and safety at all times for the age and skill level of the participants
  • Warm-up and conditioning activities are part of the program to ensure safety and prevent injuries
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