The data from a recent Sports + Community survey we conducted paints a compelling picture: involvement in sports brings people together, nurtures connections, and increases happiness. So now that the benefits are clear, how can your or your child get involved in your own community? And, how do you find a league or team that's the best fit?
Top 4 tips to remember when looking for a local youth sports team or youth sports league:
1. Make a list of what you're looking for!
A quick Google search for local youth sports leagues near you might deliver pages and pages of hits, especially in more populated areas. How do you sort through them to find the best fit for your child?
Especially with kid’s leagues, it’s important to know the right questions to ask yourself and the prospective organization:
- Are you looking for a truly competitive experience, with strenuous practices held multiple times a week -- or would you prefer a smaller league with a focus on fun and fitness, where keeping score is an afterthought?
- How often will practices take place, and is the location practical for your family to travel to and from regularly?
Once you’ve found a league that offers the sport your child is looking for, and matches your family's needs, then it's time to compare reviews. And not just the ones you’ll find on social media -- chances are, someone in your social circle has experience with the league you’re looking into, so ask around!
2. Focus on safety
There are more questions to ask yourself here, after all safety should be a top priority when choosing a youth sports organization or youth sports team for your child. Some questions to consider are:
- What standards does the league use to determine employment eligibility for coaches and officials?
- Aside from having a clean background check, would you also prefer that coaches be trained in athletic education or childhood development?
- What disciplinary or motivational tactics are used?
The coach-athlete relationship must be built on mutual trust and respect, so don’t be afraid to ask these questions. As mentors, coaches have a big impact on your child's life and it's important that your goals align.
It’s also paramount in the age of COVID-19 to find out how leagues are handling the increasingly important task of keeping players and families safe from diseases or injury. Some key COVID-19 related questions to ask are:
- Are masks required during play?
- Are coaches trained in COVID-19 precautions and general injury prevention?
- How will they notify participants and parents in the event of a team exposure?
3. Lend a helping hand
Once you find a league you want to be involved in, don’t stop with just showing up to practices and games -- find ways to move it forward. Speak with your coach about what their needs are and if you have the time, volunteer to pick up slack with communication, snack schedules, event planning, or assistant coaching. Your efforts will be rewarded with a stronger bond to your child's team and a better experience for everyone. Because when your coach has more time to focus on player development, the entire team wins -- in more ways than one.
4. Be a pioneer
If you can’t find any leagues in your area that check all the boxes, why not start your own? The first thing you’ll want to do is sit down and outline what you’re trying to achieve. What needs will your league meet that weren’t being met currently in your community? Talk to other local parents or community leaders and get their advice about starting your own organization. You never know - it just may be the thing your community has been waiting for!
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