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.
Note: this information is also available as a printable PDF leaflet in English (Keeping children safe in sport – a parent’s charter) and in Welsh (Cadw plant yn ddiogel mewn chwaraeon – siarter i rieni).
Has the club or organisation achieved a sports body or local council accreditation (eg Clubmark) that is up to date? If so, then this can be viewed as evidence that the club or organisation has attained a certain level of safe practices as assessed by the awarding body.
Even if the club is accredited, you should check that the 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
- written standards of good practice, such as a code of conduct or behaviour
- a parental consent and 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 records checks (eg DBS) for relevant posts and technical qualifications
- access to appropriate safeguarding or child protection training for its staff and volunteers
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 safeguarding policy?
Sports clubs and organisations should have a safeguarding policy, with a clear procedure for dealing with concerns or risks of abuse. You should be advised how you can access the policy.
(You can take a look at our sample safeguarding policy statement which outlines how a sports organisation will ensure children are kept safe when taking part in their sport.)
If you or your child have any worries, who can you talk to?
Every sports organisation should have a named welfare officer and promote their contact details. Well run clubs should be prepared to listen and advise 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 do not have a commitment to address 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.
(We offer a sample code of conduct for staff and volunteers for sports organisations to use. Take a look to see what it covers.)
What boundaries exist concerning club relationships?
The club should have clear guidelines about appropriate relationships and social activities between staff, volunteers, participating young people, and parents. Find out who in the club you can speak to if you have concerns about boundaries not being observed.
What ratio of supervising adults to children is there?
Find out what the recommended supervision ratios are for your child's chosen activity. You can do this by referring to the organisation responsible for the sport or activity. It's always recommended that more than one member of staff or volunteer is present when in charge of young people.
(We've got guidance for sports organisations on appropriate staffing and supervision ratios so you can see what's expected of clubs.)
Does the club ask for signed parent's consent and emergency details?
As part of your child's registration, are you asked to complete a consent form? This should ask for emergency contacts, key medical information (allergies, asthma, etc.) and whether there are any other issues the club needs to know about in order to help your child get the most out of their participation.
(We offer a template registration and consent form to sports organisations that you can take a look at to see what you may be asked to fill in for your child.)
What about arrangements for away fixtures and other events?
The sports club or organisation should inform you about the event arrangements and planning, 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.
(We've got guidance for sports organisations on away trips which you may find useful to read through to see what you and the club are responsible for.)
Recruitment of staff and volunteers
Have all staff and volunteers been selected through a proper recruitment process?
This should include interviews, references and criminal records checks (e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)) for staff working with children.
What training has been provided for staff and volunteers?
All staff and volunteers should have up-to-date recognised safeguarding training. Organisations often require and are able to provide sport-specific training programmes for staff and volunteers.
(Our safer recruitment pages include what safeguards clubs should be putting in place when hiring staff or volunteers.)
Is the coach qualified?
Your child's coach should have a recognised qualification to clarify they are qualified and have the technical competence in the sport or activity at the right level. Coaches need to be competent to deliver and oversee the sport or activity safely.
Health and safety
Make sure that the organisation has guidance of first aid (and ideally 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 providing participants with drinks and dissemination of medications (parental consent will be required for dissemination of medication)
- that the premises satisfy fire and other relevant regulations
If your child needs help with using the toilet, changing, feeding or their medication, discuss and agree how these personal care needs will be addressed.
(Our guidance on personal care responsibilties for young athletes might give you an idea of what you and the club need to discuss.)