How to Create a Code of Conduct for Youth Sports
Parents and athletes can get very passionate about sports. Unfortunately, this passion can sometimes devolve into poor behavior. Is your league prepared for these unwelcome scenarios? You should be. Creating a code of conduct for youth sports is a necessity for every organization.
Even in the best-run leagues, a few bad incidents can spoil a whole season. For some sports organizations, poor behavior is threatening the future of competition. Consider this fact: An estimated 80 percent of high school sports officials quit before their third year.
Why is this happening?
Verbal and physical abuse by parents can sometimes run unchecked. And adults may ridicule officials’ calls or decisions–in person or online. This bad behavior frustrates officials, make it hard to find volunteers, and harm youth participants.
Your league can help avoid and manage these difficult situations. Here are example tips to create a code of conduct for youth sports and safeguard your organization.
1. Example Codes of Conduct for Parents and Athletes
Good behavior by everyone helps ensure a positive sports experience for every athlete. That’s why many leagues have codes of conduct (CoC) for both parents and players.
A CoC is a short document that outlines expected behaviors. Start with an introductory paragraph that explains the purpose of the CoC. Then you can list out expected behaviors as bullet points. Use simple, direct language to avoid ambiguity.
For parents, some CoC points to consider include:
- I will put the emotional and physical well-being of youth participants ahead of a personal desire to win.
- I will respect players, coaches, officials, spectators, and families at all times.
- I will respect the decisions of officials or coaches.
- I will not engage in any violence or verbal threats or use any profanity.
- I will not yell advice to my child during a game.
- I will model good sportsmanship for all youth participants.
- I will not belittle or ridicule anyone involved in a youth sporting event–in public, private, in-person, or online.
- I will do my part to keep sports fun and positive for every youth participant.
For youth, you may be able to use some points from the parent code. A few ideas of phrases to add include:
- I will show good sportsmanship to players, coaches, officials, opponents, and parents at every game and practice.
- I will learn the value of commitment by participating in as many practices and games as I can.
- I will encourage my teammates and praise good efforts.
- I will be honest, fair, and respectful to others at all times.
- I will not engage in any rude or unsportsmanlike behavior.
- I will aim to learn all I can from sports.
- I will do my best in school.
You can add other points that help your league better serve its youth. Think back on issues you’ve witnessed in your league or community to help shape the right code.
2. Require Parents and Athletes to Acknowledge the Code during Registration
Having solid CoCs for adults and youth is important. But participants must agree to the codes for them to take effect.
Include all of your Codes of Conduct in your online registration form so parents must agree when registering.
Make sure your CoCs are on your website so they are accessible at all times. Then, you can make acknowledging and agreeing to adult and youth CoCs a mandatory registration step.
You can have coaches review the CoC at a first team meeting as well. If any players or adults don’t have a current CoC on file, you can require them to sign one before any playing time.
3. Be Consistent with Enforcement
As part of your CoC, you should outline steps the league will take to address violations. You don’t need to be heavy-handed about violations, but do take them seriously when they happen. And be consistent with consequences.
Aim to apply the same remediation processes to everyone. Treat the newest league participant the same as your treat top fundraiser or star athlete.
For a minor first offense, you may want to issue a verbal warning. A second offense may merit a written warning.
Ongoing offenses or serious violations can lead to single or multi-event suspensions. And a truly grave violation can lead to ejection for the league for a season or more.
Guidelines and specific enforcement processes should be detailed on your website or in any other materials you present to parents before the season.
Always remember that everyone is human and mistakes happen. Most people will redirect unwelcome behaviors with a verbal reminder of CoC guidelines. Still, having defined escalation procedures is important to ensure fair treatment for everyone.
Safeguard Your League with a Code of Conduct for Youth Sports
Has your youth league become too intense and competitive? Or are a few "bad apple" parents ruining the fun for families?
A code of conduct is a bit like an insurance policy. You want to have one in place, but you hope not to have to use it.
While writing and implementing a CoC isn’t the most enjoyable part of youth sports, you can’t ignore it. Creating a CoC is definitely in the best interest of your league
When drafting your code of conduct, be as inclusive as possible. Consult board members, parents, players, officials, and other stakeholders. Start with a code of conduct for youth sports, then add points that fit the needs of your league.
Having a clear CoC lets you set aside worries about disruptive behaviors damaging your league. You stay focused on the positives of youth sports–fun, friendship, and community.
Jersey Watch helps busy volunteers build a website, schedule events, register players, and collect payments. Need more help setting up your code of conduct, or want to set up online registration for your sports programs? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.