Supporting your child in sport can mean lots of different things, washing kits or being their personal cheerleader or taxi driver. But it also means making sure their sport is a safe place for them to enjoy.
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.
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 trips 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.
Every club should:
- let you see their policies and procedures on how they deal with any concerns raised about poor practice or abuse
- give you the name of a welfare or child protection officer in case you have any concerns
- show you written standards for good practice, such as a code of conduct for staff and volunteers
- ask you to provide essential medical and emergency contact information, and get your consent for your child to participate
- be able to let you know about what they have in place to make sure their staff are safe to work with your child
What clubs should have in place
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.
A club welfare officer
Every club should have a welfare or child protection officer who you can contact if 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 like 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.
Codes of conduct for staff, children and parents
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's appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to the relationships they build with your children.
Clubs should use these codes to address any poor behaviour but you can use them too. If you witness something that makes you uncomfortable, it's always advisable to check your club's code of conduct to see if any specific rules might have been broken and raise these with the club.
Safeguarding training for staff
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 they need depends on the type of role they have and the frequency of involvement they have with children.
Safe ways of recruiting staff, including criminal records checks
All staff should be subject to something called 'safer recruitment processes', which means that they’ve been interviewed, the organisation has seen references, and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or criminal records checks for working with children have been carried out where applicable.
Consent and emergency contact details
We advise that any child under the age of 16 requires a parent's 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 is anything else the club needs to know about in order to help your child get the most out of taking part.
Rules on how many adults there are per child
The number of adults in charge at an activity can vary, depending on the age of the children and the type of activity. Whoever oversees that particular sport or activity, such as a National Governing Body or Active Partnership will have recommended supervision ratios in place. If you're not sure there's enough adults leading an activity, you can always check with these organisations.
It's always recommended that more than one member of staff or volunteer is present when in charge of young people.
Arrangements for away games and competitions
The club or organisation running the event should let you know about the event arrangements in advance, including transport to and from the venue and any hotels or accommodation.
If it's a long way from home, you should be given a contact number to 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.
Basic levels of 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 should have the following available if an accident happens:
- first aid box
- a way of reporting and responding to injuries or accidents
- 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, you should discuss and agree how these personal care needs will be taken care of