Information for parents

Last updated: 17 Apr 2019
What you can do

Like you, we want all children to get the best out of sport. Parents can help in a number of different ways to make clubs a safer and more enjoyable place for children to be.

As a great sports parent, you should know that you have the right and responsibility to make sure your child is attending a safe club and that the environment they’re in is enjoyable, enabling them to develop to the best of their ability.

You can make sure your child and other children are having the best experiences of sport by doing 2 things:

  • make sure the club your child is attending is safe
  • support your child to enjoy sport in a positive way

We’ve filled the following pages with helpful information and guidance to enable you to keep your children safe, happy and enjoying 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 but the services below are designed to help you if you have any concerns at all.

By taking action, 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 who to speak to, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for advice
  • find out the club guidelines for recording and reporting concerns and follow them
  • speak to the club’s child-protection or welfare officer

Related information for coaches and clubs

Advice and resources to help coaches and clubs promote positive parental behaviour can be found on our Parents in sport topic page.

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What to look for in a sports club

Choosing a sports club should be similar to choosing a nursery place or school. You’ll need to think about whether you and your child feel comfortable there and that the right things are in place for them to attend.

The best way to make sure a club is right for you and your child is to attend a session or practice in advance, or go along with your child the first time. Speak to staff, coaches and your child, look around the facilities and see what’s on offer before you both come to a decision.

Any good club or activity should have certain things in place to make sure they’re taking care of children during sessions, practices and any away dates and competitions.

You should feel confident asking a club about any of the points below. Remember: you have a right to know these things and any good club will be happy to let you know what they have in place.

Quick checklist

Every club should:

What to look for in a sports club

Do they have a safeguarding policy?

Clubs should have a safeguarding policy, which outlines their commitment to protecting children and a clear procedure for dealing with concerns of abuse or poor practice. You should be able to see a copy of this 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.)

What if I have a concern?

Every club should have a welfare or child protection officer who you can contact in the event that you have a concern about how your child or any other child is treated during their time at the club.

This person should not only be able to help you if you have a serious concern but should also be able to advise you on other issues such as bullying, discrimination, other parents’ behaviour or poor practice.

If a welfare officer can’t help you, they’ll hold the contact details for services that can, and will point you in the right direction.

You should receive this person’s contact details when you join. If you don’t, their details should be available from any coach, or be displayed on the club’s website or in their venue for everyone to see.

What’s expected of staff?

There should be a written code of behaviour (or conduct) showing what is required of staff, volunteers and participants.
The club should also have clear rules on what they deem to be both appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to the relationships they build with children.

It’s important for your child’s sake and others that clubs are committed to preventing and addressing any instances of bullying, poor side-line behaviour or discrimination of any kind. After all, sport should be a safe place for everyone to enjoy.

All staff working with your child should have had some level of safeguarding training as well as some technical training to make sure they have the knowledge to instruct others in that sport.

The level of safeguarding training required depends on the type of role they do and the frequency of involvement they have with your child.

We advise coaches, clubs and other sports organisations on what type of training staff should have.

All staff should be subject to safe recruitment process when they join a club.

Safe recruitment means that they’ve been interviewed, the organisation has seen references, and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal records checks for working with children have been carried out where applicable.

Did they ask for your consent and emergency details?

We advise that any children under the age of 16 requires your consent to join a club or activity.

Part of giving your consent should mean that you’re aware of the kind of club you’re sending your child to and that you’re comfortable letting them attend.

As part of your child's registration, you should also be asked for emergency contacts, key medical information (allergies, asthma, and so on) and whether there are any other issues the club needs to know about in order to help your child get the most out of taking part.

How many adults should be supervising the children?

Find out what the recommended supervision ratios are for your child's chosen activity. You can do this by contacting whoever oversees that particular sport or activity, such as a National Governing Body or Active Partnership (formerly County Sports Partnership).

It's always recommended that more than one member of staff or volunteer is present when in charge of young people.

What about arrangements for away games and competitions?

The club or organisation running the event should inform you about the event arrangements and planning, including transport to and from the venue and any hotels or accommodation. 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.

In these instances, you can expect the same level of information about any trips away as you would when your child goes away with school.

Health and safety

Make sure that the premises are safe and look well kept. The organisation should have guidance on first aid (and ideally a qualified first aider) and the following available within the club:

  • first aid box
  • a way of reporting and responding to injuries or accidents that occur within club time
  • arrangements to administer medication to children if that’s been agreed with you beforehand
    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 before they attend.

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 before they attend. 

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Supporting your child in sport

Parents play a big role in encouraging children to take part in and stay in sport, which is important if we want our children to live healthy and active lifestyles.

We know that it can sometimes be hard to know how to best support your child in sport, especially during tough times like competitions, so we’ve written some pointers to help.

How you can support your child emotionally and practically:

  • make sure your child has the kit and clothing they’ll need for sessions, practices and competitions
  • children often need some help to get to and from their sport; if you can’t provide this all the time, speak to relatives or other parents in the sport to see how you can support each other
  • you might want to help out at the club as a volunteer or by taking part in fundraising activities
  • put forward any helpful suggestions about how to improve things at the club as well as voicing any concerns
  • make sure you’re only shouting encouragement from the sidelines, not criticism
  • respect officials’ and referees’ decisions – they’re often volunteers themselves and need your support too
  • ignore or, better yet, report any negative behaviour from other parents or spectators – keep the atmosphere positive
  • have confidence in coaches and staff, stay off the pitch and let them help your child develop their own skills
  • remember that winning isn’t everything – encourage your child to be there to have fun as much as to win
  • listen to your child – if they’re not happy, ask them why and what you might be able to change together to make them feel better about taking part
  • let them know you’re proud of them for many different reasons, not just what spot in the team they’ve got or what time they’ve beaten

Things great sports parents say

“I’m so proud of how far you’ve come this season.”

“Do you still like this sport or would you like to try something new this year?”

“I know you might feel that decision was unfair, but we can talk to the referee after the game if you like and see if we can both understand it better.”

“I can see that you take your sport very seriously. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, each game is another experience.”

“I believe in you and I think you can do it.”

Challenging times

Competitions and elite sport

If your child is more serious about their sport, they may be on their way to becoming a rising young athlete.

Whilst involvement in sport is usually a positive experience, there may be times when children feel the pressure to perform to achieve their goals and might need your support a bit more than usual.

Before, during and after competitions, it’s a good idea to reinforce those positive messages about how proud you are or about the importance of just taking part.

Ask your child is there’s anything specific they’d like or need before or during competitions to help them, such as quiet time or time out to relax.

Make sure you’re taking time out too; competitions can be just as stressful for parents as they can be for children. Try to stay calm and help out where you can.

You can find more information on the physical and emotional impact elite sport can have on young people on our elite young athlete’s topic page.

Bullying, discrimination and being treated fairly

We all feel protective over our children and want what’s best for them, so when they’re subject to bullying behaviour, or feeling left out, we quite rightly want to help.

Your clubs welfare or child protection officer should be the first person you speak to should you or your child feel there’s bullying taking place in the sport. Every sport should have an anti-bullying policy and procedures in place.

Likewise, children of all ethnic backgrounds, abilities, genders and sexual identities should be accepted without judgement or discrimination and clubs should work with you to make your child feel welcome and enable them to access their chosen sport.

Take a look at our resources and further information page for links to other services who may be able to support you and your child. 

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Further information and resources

Further information and resources for parents

Here are some resources you might find helpful when it comes to supporting your child in sport, and which you might want to share with other parents.

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.

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.



In their own words – a video from young people about parental involvement in sport

In these short videos, young people talk about the support they've received from their parents to get involved in sport. They also offer some key messages to parents about the kind of support you can offer.



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.

More videos

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

Services that can help support you and your child

NSPCC – safeguarding advice, guidance and resources for parents and families

Childline – support and information for your child on a range of different topics from managing emotions to staying safe online

Young Stonewall – a branch of Stonewall UK designed to offer support and advice to LGBTQ young people

Anti-Bullying Alliance – an anti-bullying charity with advice and tools for parents

Gendered Intelligence – support for trans young people and their parents

UK Anti-Doping - support for parents with children on the talent pathway regarding clean sport

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