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How to Choose the Right Youth Sports Program for Your Child

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 3/9/2009

Not all youth sports programs are created equal. Before you enroll your child, check out a youth sports program to make sure it has good staff and good goals.

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    Organized Sports and Children

    Parts one and two of the “Organized Sports and Children” series looked at the benefits of organized sports as exercise for kids and at age guidelines for organized sports participation. Part three will provide a blueprint for what makes a good youth sports program.

    When you’re considering enrolling your child in a youth sports program, you owe it to your child to do thorough research. You can ensure that your child has the best experience in youth sports by looking for a program that encompasses all of the following goals and requirements.

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    Safety is number one.

    A good youth sports program makes safety its number one priority. Not only will a good program require children to wear the proper safety equipment and play safely with each other, the program will also implement a risk management and child protection program.

    Any adult over the age of 17 involved in your child’s youth sports program should have undergone a background check. In addition, each of these adult supervisors should be certified in first aid and CPR.

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    Coaches are trained.

    A good youth sports coach will not only know the ins and outs of her sport. She will also be trained in child development. As a coach teaches sports skills, it’s important for her to be able to understand what her players are capable of cognitively, socially, and physically.

    Look for programs that require coaches to attend regular youth sports coach training.

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    Coaches are evaluated.

    At the end of each season, a good youth sports program will evaluate its coaches, asking parents and players for feedback. If a program asks its participants for this feedback, that’s a good sign that the program really cares about creating the best environment possible for the children.

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    The program does not cut children.

    Organized sports are most beneficial for children when they provide a fun environment that focuses on cooperation—not winning games. If a youth sports program cuts children who do not meet a certain standard, the focus is clearly on winning.

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    All players get equal playing time.

    Inclusiveness is highly beneficial to children in organized sports, and one way to ensure that everyone feels valued is to allow all players equal time on the field. When all players are given the same opportunity to compete, they are all allowed to grow and develop.

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    The program sets sensible time limits.

    Organized sports can be a big commitment for children, but they should never take up so much time that a child feels overwhelmed or overworked. A good youth sports program will set sensible limits on the amount of time that children play in games, participate in group practices, and are expected to practice at home.

    The number one cause of injury in youth sports is exhaustion. A child’s body needs the right amount of rest as much as it needs exercise, and balanced youth sports time limits should eliminate any potential injury as a result of exhaustion.

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    The program promotes a healthy attitude.

    Above all else, good youth sports programs allow kids to develop healthy self-esteem in an environment that is both educational and fun. Look for a program that encourages respect for fellow teammates, opponents, and game officials; teaches that winning is not everything; and rewards trying your best.

    Children learn by example, so everyone involved in the youth sports program from coaches, to players, and parents should exhibit a healthy attitude towards competition.

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    The program requires parents to attend training.

    The most successful youth sports programs require parents to attend training sessions to learn the rules of the game and how to give proper support to players.

    When a parent is familiar with the rules, he’ll be better able to cope with watching his child from the sidelines. Instead of going ballistic when his child gets a foul, the parent will understand why the child received the call and react appropriately.

Organized Sports and Children

The "Organized Sports and Children" series will look at how organized sports are a beneficial form of exercise for kids and how parents can support children in sport endeavors.
  1. Are Organized Sports Good Exercise for Kids?
  2. How to Choose the Right Youth Sports Program for Your Child