When you finally decide that your child is ready to play youth football, it's a decision not to be taken lightly. First off, it's a commitment. Not a one week or one month commitment but a commitment of 3 or 4 nights a week for 3 months. So it's important that not only your child be comfortable with the decision but you as parents be comfortable with the decision as well.
First and foremost, your child is in 8th Grade or below so just allowing him to play where his friends play is not always the best decision and more times than not parents often tell us about horrible experiences which could have been avoided if they took the time to research the team before they went and signed-up or tried out.
After talking with several parents and players, we have come up with a list of guidelines which we feel can be invaluable as you think about choosing the right youth football experience for your child:
- DOES THE TEAM HAVE A WEBSITE?
- If so, you might be able to gather allot of this information below online.
- Does the website allow the organization to communicate to the parents or is it a static page that has not been updated since last year?
- This can tell you the commitment level of the people involved with running the organization.
- Websites are a powerful way to communicate to parents and players; however are also allot of work and require hours of involvement but can make your life as a parent so much easier with calendars and upcoming events and practices online.
- WHO IS COACHING YOUR SON?
- Does the team list the coaches they have and give profiles of the coaches so that you know exactly who is coaching your son and what knowledge and experience they possess?
- Also, are the coaches Dad's of the players on the team?
- This is the number one complaint of parents and it's a simple question that can be asked to help inform parents what they are in for.
- Now not all Dad Coaches are bad, there have been great coaches who got into youth football because of their child's involvement; however you also want to be aware if the Head Coach's son is the Quarterback and the team is based around him.
- How are the facilities where the team plays? Does the organization take care of the fields and keep them in good shape?
- Poor facilities can lead to an injury and facilities are sometimes a good indication of the team's commitment and involvement not only from their staff but their parents.
- Does the team have a home field?
- Does the team practice on the side of a hill or on grass pastures?
- Do the fields have grass on them so that they are safe for the players?
- What kind of shape is the gear they use?
- Do they have home and away uniforms; this usually is a good indication of the financial status of the team?
- Does your team have an insurance policy covering the players, the coaches, and the staff?
- Most insurance policies are provided by the league however some teams have extended coverage plans for their players which means parents pay at a maxium their deductible for on any football injury and it many cases they don't have to pay any money at all.
- Evaluate the cost for your child to play on a particular?
- In most cases you get what you pay for, the same can be said about youth sports. It takes several thousand dollars to even outfit kids with football gear let alone buy practice equipment and blocking dummies. These are all factors to evaluate before you make the decision of what team to play for or on. A team charging $100 may be really affordable however in order to charge that price they are cutting back on basic essentials that your child could really benefit from.
- Is your team run by a board or a governing body?
- Does your team put on events during the season: Homecoming Party, Pep Rallies, Awards Banquet...?
- If they do, this allows your whole family to get involved and share in the success of the organization. So instead of the experience being strictly about what happens on the field, your family gets to have fun and rewarded for being involved in an experience instead of just being on a team.
- TALK TO OTHER PARENTS!
- Obviously when you just talk to a coach or a staff member from an organization... they are going to promote and tell you all the positives about why you should come play for their team. However, the best people to usually talk to are other parents who are involved in the organization. Are they excited to talk about the team and their experiences. Are their kids currently learning and having fun? All things to consider and can really help you get the whole picture before you make a decision.
- GET INVOLVED!
- Most organizations allow for parents to get involved whether it be coaching, or striping fields, or helping on a homecoming committee. Our best advice to get the full experience out of youth sports is for parents to get off the bleachers and to get involved. This allows you to see how the organization is really ran and to help make a difference. Most organizations are ran by volunteers and I am sure they would love to have your help.
Hopefully, the above questions give you an idea of some of the things you should consider before choosing any team in any league. Again it's your child and your child's experience and you should take the time to ask all the questions to ensure you made the right decision.