Choosing the Right Youth Football Program

There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right program for your child.  Choosing the wrong program can be financially and emotionally costly.  Hopefully the information here will help new and existing parents make a more informed choice.

Costs:

Fees varied widely by organization and teams.  Knowing your required and optional fees make it easy to afford and plan for over time.  It also insures you can properly gauge if the cost is worth the expected quality of services in return.   Costs are usually broken down into two categories; required and optional.  Required fees are usually registration and uniform costs.  Optional costs are usually uniforms, accessories, extra apparel and other services unique to your organization or team.  Get this information in writing in advance. 

Organizational Structure

Is there a clear hierarchy of leadership or chain of command?  Are there documented rules or By-Laws?  This is an often overlooked area by parents and coaches.  Without clear leadership, there is anarchy.  Where there is anarchy there is inefficiency, waste and chaos.  And your child will be impacted because of it.  Look for published By-laws and regulations on the organization/team website.   Expect print copies to be distributed upon request or during formal organizational meetings.  Kids pick up on poor leadership and learn these negative traits. 

Culture

This is the most abstract area of choosing the right organization or team, yet it’s the most important.  Every parent is unique in their preference of the culture most suitable for the developmental goals of their child.  If development is not in your analysis, ask yourself “why not?”.   This requires multiple conversations with coaches, organizational leaders.   Find parents with kids in the program and ask them about their experiences.  Be diligent in your investigation.  You need to speak with the head coach of the team you are considering to see how your value systems, goals, and philosophies align.  Once you pay your fees, you are locked in for an entire season.

League

Find out as much as you can about the league.  The league Must have a website with general information on schedule, rules, member organizations and season events.  Poorly run leagues tend to have poorly run organizations.  Don’t put too much stock in the glamour and glitter of a league.  Pay special attention to the rules as they relate to your childs age.  Scheduling is a huge challenge for most youth football leagues, so it’s imperative you understand how the schedule works.  Most coaches and parents prefer “Park vs Park” play.  This is where all age groups of an organization plays another organization’s entire age group.  If you have multiple children to enroll, this is a HUGE advantage for you, as a coach, staffer or parent.  The experience is usually an awesome experience for the kids, and even the adults.  Most leagues don’t always provide park on park play….or put another way “you play who you play when you play”.   Competition is also an important factor too consider.  While competition varies widely among teams in a League, you should look out for an unreasonable amount of forfeits and “no-shows”  This points to organizational problems in the league and should be avoided, if possible.

Safety

Our kids trust us provide for their safety at all  times as they should.  Pay special attention to the safety rules, regulations and measures used by each organization.  At a minimum, there should be established safety policies regarding:  Practices, Contact, Hydration, Heat Injuries, Emergency response, Codes of Conduct and competition.

Stability

This part of the article may rub some the wrong way, but this is not written for them.   Your child is better served in an organization that has been around for a few seasons.  Expect some level of stability in your organization and league.  The newer leagues are, the more likely they will fail, or at the very least, have huge operational difficulties and failure during the season.   Stable leagues tend to operate better, which means more enjoyable game days for everyone involved, especially the young athlete.

Final words

Make sure you are selfish when it comes to your child.  This doesn’t mean put your child above the needs of the team.  Just make sure you objectively investigate and evaluate each prospective organization and team to ensure it will provide the BEST opportunity for your athlete.  Only YOU know what’s best for your child.   Good luck in your search or change!