Parents left to assume much in youth sports


As the end of 2nd and 4th grade approaches, it has been quite exciting for my children and me. Reading, math and science lessons have given way to end-of-the-year parties and a whole bunch of silliness. I have heard countless knock-knock jokes and kid pranks in the past few days and one stuck out beyond the others.

My older daughter blurted out a new way of saying the word "assume." She exuberantly stated that we should not assume anything as it can make an ASS out of U and ME. She immediately laughed and looked at me for my reaction. While I tried to keep my giggles in check (and then proceeded to answer my younger daughter's standard question, "What does that mean?"), I could not help to think about how many parents ASSUME so much about the sport programs they put their children into.

I believe that most parents sign their children up for activities and don't ask any questions. Some organizations use programs like the Parents Association for Youth Sports to provide parents an orientation to youth sports, which is an essential element to ensure that they understand what youth sports is all about. Some programs provide written handbooks and packets of information about the programs. While some do both – countless programs provide nothing to the parents in the form of education or information.

Parents are left to assume a great deal – they assume the coaches know how to coach the particular sport, they assume the volunteers don’t have a criminal history or have been cleared (by who and when?) and many do not know if their child is participating in a program offered by the public entity, such as the recreation department, or by a volunteer league run by parents who are permitted to use the fields, courts and rinks.

Parents should really demand information before they ever sign their kids up. Since they don't, it's imperative that the professional youth sports administrators (CYSAs) in a community constantly educate and advocate.

Program providers have a responsibility to provide a safe and positive experience for all children. They can do this by making sure that everyone buys into a philosophy that puts the needs of children first. Everyone associated with the program needs to understand the program's mission, its policies and procedures as well as their individual responsibilities. By letting parents know what to expect, many questions can be answered.

Parents and volunteers who do not receive an orientation or training are left to ASSUME a lot about a program. Communication is education. And since no one wants to be an ASS (especially U and ME) – NAYS will continue to work every day to spread the value of safe, positive and fun sports experiences by encouraging every youth sports organization to adopt our proven programs and resources. Happy Summer!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

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