The following is taken from the Tennis Ireland code of ethics of which we abide…
Children have a lot to gain from sport. Their natural sense of fun and spontaneity can blossom in positive sporting environments. Sport provides an excellent opportunity for children to learn new skills, become more confident and maximise their own unique potential. These benefits will increase through a positive and progressive approach to the involvement of children in sport that places the needs of child first and winning and competition second. Winning and losing are an important part of sport but they must be kept in a healthy perspective. A child centred approach to childrens sport will return many benefits in terms of the health and well being of our future adult population.
The organisation of sport for children should be guided by a set of core values that provide the foundation for all practice:
IMPORTANCE OF CHILDHOOD
The importance of childhood should be understood and valued by everyone involved in sport. The right to happiness within childhood should be recognised and enhanced at all levels of sport.
NEEDS OF THE CHILD
All childrens sport experiences should be guided by what is best for children. This means that adults should have a basic understanding of the emotional, physical and personal needs of young people. Then stages of development and ability of children should guide the types of activity provided within the sport.
INTEGRITY IN RELATIONSHIPS
Adults interacting with children in sport are in a position of trust and influence. They should always ensure that they treat children with integrity and respect and that the self-esteem of the child is enhanced. All adult actions in sport should be guided by what is best for the child and carried out in the context of respectful and open relationships. Verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse of any kind or threat of such abuse is totally unacceptable within sport, as in society in general.
All childrens sport should be conducted in an atmosphere of fair play. Ireland and the UK have adopted and are committed to the European Code of Sports Ethics, which defines fair play as:
much more than playing within the rules. It incorporates the concepts of friendships, respect for others and always playing within the right spirit. Fair play is defined by a way of thinking, not just as a way of behaving. It incorporates issues concerned with the elimination of cheating, gamesmanship, doping, violence (both physical and verbal), exploitation, unequal opportunities, excessive commercialisation and corruption.
(European Sports Charter and Code of Ethics. Council of Europe, 1993) The principles of fair play should always be emphasised, and organisers should give clear guidelines regarding acceptable standards of behaviour. The importance of participation for each child, best effort and enjoyment rather than winning should be stressed.
Children should be encouraged to win in an open and fair way. Behaviour, which constitutes cheating in any form, for example, calling balls on the line out, should be discouraged.
QUALITY ATMOSPHERE AND ETHOS
Childrens sport should be conducted in a safe, positive and encouraging atmosphere. Standards of behaviour for leaders and children in the sport and the organisation should be as important as the standards these organisations set for sports performance. Standards of excellence should extend to personal conduct.
A child centred ethos will help to ensure that competition and specialisation are kept in their appropriate place. A balanced approach to competition can make a significant contribution to childrens development while at the same time providing fun, enjoyment and satisfaction. Through such competition children learn respect for opponents, officials and rules of the sport.
Too often competitive demands are placed on children too early, which results in excessive levels of pressure on them. This is one of a number of factors, which contribute to high levels of dropout from sport. It should always be kept in mind that the welfare of children comes first and competitive standards come second. While under eight is a very different age group to under eighteen the same general principle should apply.
All children should be valued and treated in an equitable and fair manner regardless of ability, age, sex, religion, social and ethnic background or political persuasion. Children, irrespective of ability or disability should be involved in sports activities in an integrated and inclusive way, whenever possible, thus allowing them to participate to their potential alongside other children.