Par­ents need to choose wisely and ask ques­tions about is­sues such as vet­ting

Pick­ing sports clubs for chil­dren should in­volve as much care as pick­ing schools, writes Swim Ire­land’s Kate Hills

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Analysis -

PAR­ENTS should choose their chil­dren’s sports clubs as care­fully as their schools. They look at the school’s rep­u­ta­tion, the teach­ers, ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties as well as what sub­jects their child might do. Swim Ire­land, the na­tional gov­ern­ing body for aquat­ics, sug­gests they should do the same checks when choosing a sports club for their child; it should be fun and en­joy­able even when your child is work­ing hard to achieve their goals and de­velop their skills. So, what should you look for when choosing a sports club?

Is the club a safe and fun en­vi­ron­ment? Are the peo­ple work­ing in the club qualified, trained and vet­ted for their roles? Is the club a well-run club with mea­sures to safe­guard both young peo­ple and adults? Is there open com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pro­mot­ing good re­la­tion­ships with young peo­ple?

We want par­ents to ask the right ques­tions so they know and trust the club.

You are hand­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity for your child to the peo­ple run­ning the club. Ask­ing ques­tions is not be­ing a nui­sance, it is be­ing re­spon­si­ble.

Al­though peo­ple in clubs are mainly vol­un­teers, of­ten par­ents them­selves, they are still re­quired to meet safe­guard­ing train­ing and vet­ting re­quire­ments.

Coaches are re­quired to hold a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and these vary in dif­fer­ent sports. At Swim Ire­land, we have dif­fer­ent lev­els of qual­i­fi­ca­tion across the four aquatic dis­ci­plines — swim­ming, div­ing, syn­chro­nised swim­ming and wa­ter polo.

You need to ask about the adults work­ing with your chil­dren and check they meet the re­quire­ments of the na­tional gov­ern­ing body. Swim Ire­land has some roles that re­quire fur­ther train­ing. For ex­am­ple, our club chil­dren’s of­fi­cers need to at­tend ex­tra cour­ses and sem­i­nars to keep up to date with best prac­tices.

Par­ents should find out about how the club is run, mak­ing sure the club pro­vides a safe, happy and child-cen­tred en­vi­ron­ment.

Our codes of con­duct set a level of be­hav­iour for every­one in a club, in­clud­ing par­ents, coaches, and com­mit­tee mem­bers, al­low­ing young peo­ple to en­joy their sport know­ing the peo­ple in­volved meet the ex­pected stan­dards.

You should also check out club doc­u­ments and struc­tures. Swim Ire­land has a com­pet­i­tive path­way so young peo­ple know how they can im­prove and progress. There are rules gov­ern­ing su­per­vi­sion of ses­sions, ac­cept­able phys­i­cal con­tact be­tween coaches and ath­letes and pro­to­cols for teams or squads trav­el­ling away to camps and com­pe­ti­tions.

You should go to a train­ing ses­sion, like go­ing to an open day in a school to see the club in ac­tion. Check out the club no­tice­board and so­cial me­dia pages to see how it com­mu­ni­cates with mem­bers.

As your child be­comes more in­volved, their group of friends grow. This encourages them to stay in­volved in sport and helps them to de­velop so­cially.

As a role model, you are cru­cial for your child’s con­tin­ued en­joy­ment in sport. You should help out in the club where needed, su­per­vise ses­sions, join the com­mit­tee or help at com­pe­ti­tions. Meet­ing other par­ents is also a so­cial op­por­tu­nity for you as well. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key be­tween par­ents, their child and the coach. Swim Ire­land helps par­ents and coaches with this through coach ed­u­ca­tion and our par­ent and club train­ing pro­grammes.

If you un­der­stand the sport, it helps con­ver­sa­tions be­tween you, your child and the coach. You can help your child con­cen­trate on their be­hav­iour, at­ti­tude and ef­fort, and the coach can help with their tech­ni­cal skills and per­for­mance. A good tip for par­ents af­ter a com­pe­ti­tion is to let your child talk to their coach and wait un­til your child is ready to talk about their per­for­mance with you — a two-way con­ver­sa­tion ask­ing your child for their views is much more help­ful than you telling them what they did wrong.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be more than just be­tween a par­ent, coach and ath­lete. Swim Ire­land be­lieves in young peo­ple voic­ing their views, so we work with our Club Chil­dren’s Of­fi­cers to gather young peo­ple’s opin­ions about their club and their sport. How young peo­ple feel and what they want from their sport help cre­ate a safe and fun en­vi­ron­ment.

Sport gives young­sters a chance to have fun, de­velop skills, achieve goals and make friends. In so­ci­ety, it can be a pow­er­ful tool to aid in­te­gra­tion and so­cial in­clu­sion.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in sport should be a con­scious choice for young peo­ple. How­ever, this of­ten in­flu­enced by parental choice and par­ents’ pre­vi­ous sport­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. The se­lec­tion by the par­ent is crit­i­cal to the longterm en­joy­ment of their child in a sport. Choose well and ask these ques­tions:

Do you know the club ethos, its poli­cies and re­quire­ments for peo­ple in­volved?

Do you un­der­stand the path­way for young peo­ple? Are par­ents in the club pos­i­tive role mod­els?

Do you un­der­stand the sports­peo­ple’s ter­mi­nol­ogy?

Do you know what goals your child is set and how you can help them achieve them?

Do you un­der­stand about nu­tri­tion, hy­dra­tion and cop­ing with ill­ness and in­jury?

What can you do to get in­volved in the club, such as be­com­ing a pool­side helper or com­mit­tee mem­ber?

‘Make sure the club pro­vides a safe, happy, child-cen­tred en­vi­ron­ment’

EN­VI­RON­MENT: Par­ents should find out how the club is run

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