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What should parents look for when choosing a sports club/coach?

What should parents look for when choosing a sports club/coach?



Many parents support their children in attending various activities. These might include a sports group such as football or in attending a group to learn a new skill. They may also consider employing a personal coach. For many children this is a good and valuable experience assisting the child’s development, self-esteem and enjoyment. When choosing any group activity, it is important that parents are confident that their children will be safe and happy. 


If your child is interested in attending a group activity, for example to learn a new sport, or to join a team, it is important to visit and find out how the group operates. It is best to visit a standard group activity session so you can see first-hand what the staff are doing and whether the children seem happy. Coaches can sometimes be stern to maintain group discipline or excitable to motivate children to stretch their performance. The children may be a little anxious of the challenges at times but should never be upset nor become fearful of the coach or the activity. Paid or volunteer, all coaches and instructors should act professionally and in a similar way you would expect from school teachers. Taking care of children and young people is a huge responsibility and it is important that staff are well trained, supported and have the necessary skills and experience to work with children.


Children can find extra school activities a struggle at times, and they will not always behave or remain focused on the activity. When this happens, you need to be assured that the coach or leader will handle the situation appropriately. Coaches or activity leaders are not allowed to smack or hit pupils even if parents allow or request it. Coaches should not use physical activity which causes pain or discomfort and It is important that you and the coach discuss what are the right forms of discipline to use if your child misbehaves during the sessions. Any activity which causes pain or discomfort should not be applied as an aid to discipline or as a means of obtaining compliance. Thus, activities such as holding stress positions, or excessive physical exercise should never be used. Indeed all sports and activities should be enjoyable for children, and coaches should not overtrain children or force them to experience pain in order to develop in the sport or activity. This would include training or competing when injured.


It is important that you listen to what your child says and believe what they are saying reassuring them that it is not their fault.

If you are concerned that the tutor or coach has engaged in ‘poor practice’ i.e. has not done the right thing, rather than done something wrong that is abusive or a possible offence, generally, we would advise parents to cancel the activities or keep the young person away from the activities until there has been time to seek advice.

You should contact a safeguarding lead if you are concerned that a coach or tutor has:

  • behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
  • behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children
  • behaved in a way that raises concerns as to their suitability to work with children

You should contact the Police if you believe that a crime has been committed.


Has the club or organisation achieved a sports body or local council accreditation that’s up to date?

If so, then this can be viewed as evidence that the club/organisation has attained a certain level of safe practices as assessed by the awarding body.

Even if your club’s accredited you should check that the club or organisation has:

  • A named and contactable welfare officer responsible for the implementation of their safeguarding policy and issues regarding the protection of children or young people.
  • Procedures for dealing with complaints or concerns regarding poor practice, abuse or neglect.
  • A trained first aider on site. 
  • Written standards of good practice (i.e. a Code of Conduct / Behaviour).
  • A parental consent/emergency details form that you must return to the club.
  • Safe recruitment procedures for those working with young people that include a clear job description, appropriate references, criminal record checks (e.g. DBS) for relevant posts and technical qualifications.
  • Access to appropriate safeguarding (child protection) training for staff/volunteers.

Remember, a well-run club will welcome your questions about their activities and policies. They will know they have a responsibility to have the right arrangements in place, and to give this kind of information to anyone who leaves a child in their care.