How to choose a youth sports league

I speak to many parents about their experiences with youth sports leagues in order to understand their expectations and concerns about youth sports. Some parents are interested in the convenience; others just want to understand the time commitment associated with participation. When registering, parents ask typical questions like:

  • Where are the games held?
  • When are practices?
  • What’s included in the registration fee?

But only a few parents seek to understand how the league they choose will help develop their athlete. Whether your athlete is focused on developing their specific sport talent or looking to have fun with friends, the expectation should always be that at the end of the season, he or she is a better player.

Unless you have a huge appetite for the financial and time commitment associated with club level sports, your athlete will likely be coached by a volunteer parent. The good news is that a volunteer parent is genuinely interested and passionate about coaching. That parental energy is a positive impact on kids. However, most youth league organizations do little or nothing to develop their volunteer coaching staff to be successful as a youth league coach. Often, the sports organization has no idea how the kids are being coached or what instruction is being provided on the practice field. Most youth leagues measure the parental satisfaction by the number of registrations they receive from season to season.

Your player’s development in sports shouldn’t hinge on the chance that you might get a volunteer coach that is knowledgeable and experienced. At Grid Iron, the youth league I manage, we make efforts to ensure our volunteer coaching staff has the skills and tools to develop your athlete. Our coaches are required to participate in a coach certification class. The objective of the course is to impart the focus and philosophy of the Grid Iron founder and provide the coaching resources necessary for the player’s development.

We want our coaches to understand that the focus for the program is to develop the player and keep them interested in the game. Beyond that, the certification class reviews player safety, game rules, player development (physical, mental, emotional), practice, and game day organization. We also provide coaching resources to assist the coaches in skills development, play book development and strategy.

As a parent and a consumer, when choosing your child’s youth sports experience, we encourage you to:

  • Seek to understand the efforts the league makes to develop your player for the next level of sports.
  • Be proactive about choosing your league.
  • Once you find a good league, invite your friends and their children to participate with you.

What expectations and concerns do you have about youth sports?

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