Information for parents

Information for parents and carers

Parents play an essential part in encouraging and supporting their child's participation in their chosen sport. 

Rights and responsibilities

It's your right as a parent (or carer) to be able to check how well a sports club is run, for the sake of your child's safety and your peace of mind.

We cover the key points you should consider when choosing a sports club or activity.

It's also important to consider what impact your behaviour as a parent will have on how your child experiences sport. Whether you become an inspiration or take the fun out of the game depends on what you do on the side-lines. 

Many parents don't even realise that their behaviour could be having an impact on their child's enjoyment of sport. But children do react to different types of behaviour – click on the 'Supporting your child in sport' tab for examples in their own words.

To keep the atmosphere positive, we've made a list of things you can do (and what not to do) to support your child in sport. 

Getting help if you're worried about a child

If you're worried that a child is being abused or put at risk during sports activities, it's vital that you talk to someone.

The idea of speaking out about abuse or poor practice in a club can be daunting. You'll probably feel worried about the impact on you and/or the child.

But if you have concerns, you must take action. By doing so you'll be safeguarding the child concerned as well as helping to prevent other children being harmed or put at risk.

  • if you think a child is in immediate danger of abuse, contact the police on 999
  • if there's no immediate danger and you're unsure of who to speak to, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for immediate advice
  • find out the club guidelines for recording and reporting concerns and follow them
  • speak to the club child-protection or welfare officer
  • for concerns related to swimming, you can contact SwimLine on 0808 100 4001 

If you experienced sexual abuse as a young footballer, you can ring the free, 24-hour NSPCC football helpline – 0800 023 2642 – for support.

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What to look for in a sports club

What to look for in a sports club

Here are the key points you should check out when choosing a sports club or activity for your child.

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

Policies and procedures

Does the organisation have a child protection policy?

Sports clubs and organisations should have a child protection policy, with a clear procedure for dealing with concerns about possible abuse. Parents and carers should be able to view the policy on request.

If you or your child have any worries, who can you talk to?

The sports organisation should be prepared to listen and tell you what to do if you have any concerns. They should have information about local or national services that can also offer advice and support.

Does the organisation have a written code of behaviour or code of conduct?

There should be a written code of behaviour (or conduct) showing what is required of staff, volunteers and participants. Avoid organisations that permit bullying, shouting, racism, sexism or any other kind of oppressive behaviour. Any unacceptable behaviour should be challenged and dealt with in a professional manner by the sports organisation.

What boundaries exist concerning club relationships?

The club should have clear guidelines about physical contact and social activities between staff, volunteers, participating children, and parents. Find out who in the club you can speak to if you have concerns about boundaries not being observed.

What about arrangements for away fixtures and other events?

The sports club or organisation should inform you about the event arrangements, including transport to and from the venue. You should also be given information about the venue itself. If it's a long way from home, you should be given a contact number for use in emergencies.

Recruitment of staff and volunteers

Have all staff and volunteers been selected through a proper recruitment process?

This should include interviews, references and police checks for staff working with children. There should be someone in charge to supervise staff and volunteers at all times.

What training has been provided for staff and volunteers?

All staff and volunteers should have up-to-date recognised safeguarding training. National Governing Bodies may be able to provide sport-specific training programmes for staff and volunteers.

Is the coach qualified?

Your child's coach should have a recognised qualification that includes child-protection training from a recognised organisation or body.

Health and safety

Make sure that a member of staff within the sports club or organisation is a qualified first aider and that the following are available within the club:

  • first aid box
  • procedure for reporting and responding to injuries or accidents that occur within club time
  • arrangements for drinks and dissemination of medications (parental consent will be required for dissemination of medication)
  • that the premises satisfy fire regulations

If your child needs help with using the toilet, feeding or medication, ask about the procedures for personal care needs.

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Supporting your child in sport
adult cheering young runners

How you can support your child in sport

As a parent, you play an essential part in encouraging and supporting your child’s participation in their chosen sport. There are obvious parts to this, such as providing lifts to and from training and matches, or by buying sports kit and equipment.

But you might also contribute by helping out as a volunteer at the club, running fundraising events or assisting with websites or funding applications.

You can provide a positive role model, encouraging fair play and a sporting approach to your child’s involvement.

However, there are times when parental behaviour is much less positive and makes it difficult for children to enjoy or even continue to take part in their sport. Sometimes parents may not recognise or realise that they are behaving in a negative or abusive way.

What not to do

Problems arise when parents:

  • are consistently negative about, mock, verbally abuse or threaten their own child or other players
  • criticise or goad officials, other spectators or coaches
  • square up to, threaten or have fights with other adults or young players
  • encroach on the court or field of play, physically intervene, or disrupt play
  • expect too much of their children
  • focus exclusively on winning at any cost
  • impose sporting aspirations on their children 
  • encourage foul play or rule-breaking
  • contradict the advice or guidance of the coach
  • push gifted children too hard and too fast
  • pursue their own sporting dreams through their children
  • define their child by their talent and success alone
  • demand that their child sacrifices ‘fun’ activities for ‘serious’ training

How bad parental behaviour affects young people

It's important to understand and acknowledge how poor parental behaviour affects children – whether it's your own child, other young participants or young officials. 

Children have told us:

‘I get really scared when they are all shouting at me.’

‘His dad was shouting, "You’re a disgrace to the family" – I felt really bad for him.’

‘Dad thinks he’s helping – but he just puts me off my game.’

‘When mum starts yelling from the side, I feel so embarrassed.’

‘It doesn’t matter if I played well – if we lose they don’t even talk to me.’

‘They started fighting… I was terrified… I wanted to run away.‘

’It’s confusing when the coach says "Do this," but dad says do it different.’

‘When I don’t do as well as I should, I know mum feels I’ve let her down – even if she doesn’t say it.’

‘I just wanted to give it all up.’

‘He seems to forget that it’s my team.’

Positive things you can do

  • support your child enthusiastically
  • encourage your child without expecting perfection
  • be a good role model – to children and other parents 
  • promote fair play
  • acknowledge the efforts of all the children
  • encourage your child to play by the rules
  • support the coaches and officials (particularly young officials)
  • share challenges or criticisms (of officials, coaches or players) in a constructive way
  • encourage other spectators to be positive
  • challenge or report poor side-line behaviour
  • allow the coaches to coach
  • support and respect your child’s ambitions in sport
  • remember that this is your child’s sporting experience – not yours
  • celebrate and support your child as a whole person who needs a range of experiences, both inside and outside sport

This is what we like to hear a child say:

‘My dad’s the best role model I could ask for. He was always on the touchline giving me great support and always encouraging me on – really good, really positive. He’s just an inspiration for me.’

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Videos for parents

These videos, created by the CPSU, highlight the positive role you can play as a parent to support your child in their chosen sport.

We hear from professionals and children themselves about the impacts that your behaviour – both good and bad – can have on young people's enjoyment and continued success in sport.

Messages for parents of young athletes

The key for being involved in your child’s sport and to help them enjoy participating and achieve success is simply this – talk to your child.

The importance of parents in sport

It's really important that you get involved and support your child in sport. Don't let media stories about 'pushy parents' put you off.

My magic sports kit

Children in different sports describe how they seem to be magically transformed into professional adult athletes when they compete. In this video, they remind parents to just treat them as kids having fun: "It's our game, not yours."

The role of parents in supporting children and young people in sport

As a parent, you’re a role model for your child to get active and enjoy sport. You show them how to be a good sportsperson and help them deal with the emotions of winning and losing, and how to react positively in different situations.

How parents can prepare and support talented young athletes

It’s not just at competitions that your support is important. Your help in getting your child the right training and coaches, motivating them before events, and being there for them afterwards all make a big difference in how they perform in and enjoy their sport.  

More videos

You can find more videos covering a wide variety of topics on the NSPCC YouTube channel.

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