3 Signs of a Great Youth Sports Program — Does Yours Have Them

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As a parent, you know the advantages that youth sports bring. Youth sports teach children how to work with others and builds life skills that help them grow into productive adults. But finding the right youth sports program can be a challenge.

Blogger Alex Perdikis recently analyzed the decline of good sportsmanship not only in youth sports but in sports in general. Clearly, you want your child to become part of a high-quality program that emphasizes both positive character building qualities as well as safety.

How do you find the best youth sports program? Follow these three tips.

1. Safety First

The first thing to evaluate is the safety and risk-management processes the program utilizes. A comprehensive program encompasses the following:

  • Readiness assessment: Parents and coaches should team together to make sure the child is ready to play, both physically and mentally. The program should require physical evaluations to determine readiness. Parents should also be required to provide medical history as well as an emergency medical authorization form.
  • Emergency action plan: The comprehensive plan should include emergency procedures to follow when players are injured or become ill as well as proper workout guidelines for conditioning and play during hot weather
  • Highly trained coaches: Look for a program where specific training for coaches about what to do in case of athlete collapse and other emergency situations is required. Coaches should be trained in CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). And, of course, the program should have an AED ready to use if needed.
  • First aid training: Along with learning CPR and how to use an AED, coaches should have basic first aid and concussion risk management training.
  • Frequent inspections and maintaining optimum equipment working order: Inspections of all play equipment and emergency medical equipment should be conducted on a strict timetable and recorded as conducted.

2. What's the Youth Sports Program Core Philosophy?

Many youth sports programs are run by parent volunteers. And, of course, that's OK. But without some sort of training, a coach can become more of a detriment to building character than a role model. Certified coaches have the training to teach fundamental skills not only about the rules of the game but character-building as well.

Some association-based and community programs offer entry-level training. There are also online tools inexperienced coaches can take advantage of. If a program with a certified coaching staff is available, it's probably a better choice.

Does that mean the team with volunteer coaches is off limits? Absolutely not. Some people are natural teachers without formal training. The bottom line is how the coach coaches.

3. How Does the Coach Perform?

Researchers at the University of Washington found the masterly climate, also called task-involving climate, methodology most effective when it came to youth sports programs. In other words, young athletes derived more satisfaction when coaches stressed personal improvement, encouraged maximum effort and stressed fun over competition than other types of coaching styles.

Look for a program with coaches who value each and every player and believe each has a role within the team. The best coaches are examples of great sportsmanship. They require the same of players.

Go to several games or competitions before you and your child choose a program. Watch how the coaches interact with players. Observe how the parents on the sidelines behave. What does the coach do when a player displays bad sportsmanship? If you observe bad behavior that's not checked, look elsewhere.

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