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

Child's Readiness to Participate

  • My child’s interest level and desire to have fun matches the group/team
  • My child’s skill level and size matches the group/team
  • My child’s emotional and social maturity matches the group/team
  • The level of intensity and competitiveness in the program matches my child’s interest and ability
  • Children with special needs are included in this group/team
  • Cultural and gender diversity are encouraged through group/team structure, activities and attitudes
  • All children are treated with respect and given meaningful opportunities to learn skills and participate fully
  • The challenges and expectations are appropriate for my child
  • Children develop a wide variety of fundamental skills prior to position specialization

Parent/Guardian Commitment to Child's Participation

  • I will support my child’s interests and realize that having FUN is the most important reason children choose to participate in sport and physical activities
  • I will provide the necessary time and assistance each week for my child to have a successful experience (i.e., encouragement, transportation, meeting attendance, volunteering, observing)
  • I understand the financial and time costs associated with participation and can provide for them
  • I will respect and support decisions made by coaches and officials even though I may disagree with them, and I will discuss any concerns I have with the coach/staff in private
  • I will be supportive of the coach/staff as teachers of my child
  • I will provide insurance coverage for my child if the organization/league does not provide adequate coverage
  • I will respect and follow rules and procedures of the club/league/organization providing the program for my child
  • I am willing to adjust family time as necessary to support my child’s participation
  • I will support my child’s active involvement by emphasizing participation, skill development, cooperation and teamwork
  • I will be a positive supporter who focuses on the positive aspects of youth sport and physical activity programs

Evaluation of the Program

  • My child has fun
  • My child’s emotional and social maturity matches the group
  • Team selection is appropriate
  • The actual administration of the program is consistent with its state philosophy
  • Sufficient and appropriate equipment is available for all participants
  • The number of practices, contests and tournaments are appropriate to this level of activity
  • Coaches modify activities to meet individual participant needs
  • Coaches/staff interact and communicate effectively with participants, parents and officials
  • Coaches treat participants, parents and officials with dignity
  • Coaches emphasize encouragement and positive feedback
  • Coaches teach participants how to cope with negative feelings: embarrassment, anger, frustration and fear
  • Coaches/officials are knowledgeable about the sport
  • Coaches/officials demonstrate, teach and encourage good sporting behavior
  • Officials are fair and consistent in their rulings
  • Awards are appropriate and emphasize participation, skill improvement and teamwork

Bill of Rights for Young Athletes

  • The principles set forth in the Bill of Rights are applicable to all sport and physical activity programs for children and youth.
  • Right to participate in sports.
  • Right to participate at a level commensurate with each child’s maturity and ability.
  • Right to have qualified adult leadership.
  • Right to play as a child and not as an adult.
  • Right of children to share in the leadership and decision-making of their sport participation.
  • Right to participate in safe and healthy environments.
  • Right to proper preparation for participation in sports.
  • Right to equal opportunity to strive for success.
  • Right to be treated with dignity.
  • Right to have fun in sports.

Resources:

American Sport Education Program. (1994). SportParent. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Bunker, L.K., and Rotella, L.K. (1995). Parenting Your Superstar. Charlottesville, VA: Links Press

Burnette, Darrell J. (1993). Youth Sports and Self-Esteem: A Guide for Parents. Indianapolis, IN: Masters Press

Dougherty, IV, N., Ed. (1993). Principles of Safety in Physical Education and Sport. Reston, VA: AAHPERD

Hart, J., and Ritson, R. (1993). Liability and Safety in Physical Education and Sport. Reston, VA: AAHPERD

Lumpkin, A., Stoll, S.K., and Beller, J.M. (1994). Sport Ethics: Applications for Fair Play. St. Louis, MO: Mosby- Year Book, Inc.

Micheli, L.J. (1990). Sportwise: An Essential Guide for Young Athletes, Parents and Coaches. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (1995). Quality Coaches, Quality Sports: National Standards for Athletic Coaches. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.

Seefeldt, V.D. (1987). Handbook for Youth Sport Coaches. Reston, VA: AAHPERD

Smith, R.E., Smoll, F.L., and Smith, N.J. (1989). Parents Complete Guide to Youth Sports. Costa Mesa, CA: HDL Publishing Co. (AAHPERD)