Sarsfields GAA Club Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Sport for Young People

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Core Values in Sport for Young People

The work of Sarsfields GAA Club is based on the following principles that will guide the development of sport for young people in this club,

– Young People’s experience of sport should be guided by what is best for the young person.

– The stages of development and the ability of the young person should guide the types of activity provided within the club.

– Adults will need to have a basic understanding of the needs of young people, including physical, emotional and personal.

Integrity in relationships:

Adults interacting with young people in sport should do so with integrity and respect for the child. All adult actions in sport should be guided by what is best for the child and in the context of quality, open working relationships

Quality atmosphere and ethos

Sport for young people should be conducted in a safe, positive and encouraging atmosphere.  A child-centered ethos will help to ensure that competition and specialisation are kept in their appropriate place.  


All children should be treated in an equitable and fair manner regardless of age, ability, sex, religion, social and ethnic background or political persuasion.  Children with disability should be involved in sports activities in an integrated way.

Fair Play:

Fair play is the guiding principle of the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport.


A balanced approach to competition can make a significant contribution to the development of young people, while at the same time providing fun, enjoyment and satisfaction.

Policy Statement

Sarsfields GAA Club

Sarsfields GAA Club is fully committed to safeguarding the well being of its members.  Every individual in Sarsfields GAA Club should at all times, show respect and understanding for members rights, safety and welfare and conduct themselves in a way that reflects the principles of the club and the guidelines contained in the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport.

In Sarsfields GAA Club our first priority is the welfare of the young people and we are committed to providing an environment which will allow participants to perform to the best of their ability, free from bullying and intimidation.

It is club policy to facilitate still photography for press and publicity purposes and the videoing of training sessions and matches under the supervision of the authorised coach.

A hard copy of the Code of Ethics and Good Practice in Sport for Young People is available behind the bar in the club house.

Code of Conduct for Young People

Sarsfields GAA Club wishes to provide the best possible environment for all young people involved in the sport. Young people deserve to be given enjoyable, safe sporting opportunities, free of abuse of any kind. These participants have rights, which must be respected, and responsibilities that they must accept. Young people should be encouraged to realise that they have responsibilities to treat other participants and sports leaders with fairness and respect.

Young players are entitled to:

  • Be safe and to feel safe
  • Be listened to
  • Be believed
  • Be treated with dignity, sensitivity and respect
  • Have a voice in the club
  • Participate on an equal basis
  • Have fun and enjoy sport
  • Experience competition at a level at which they feel comfortable
  • Make complaints and have them dealt with
  • Get help against bullies
  • Say No
  • To protect their own bodies
  • Confidentiality

Young players should always:

  • Treat Sports Leaders with respect,
  • Play fairly at all times, do their best
  • Respect team members, even when things go wrong
  • Respect opponents, be gracious in defeat
  • Abide by the rules set down by team managers when travelling to away events.
  • Behave in a manner that avoids bringing the sports of gaelic football, hurling and camogie into disrepute
  • Talk to children’s officer (kathleen ryan 086-264115 or xxx) if they have any problems.

Young players should never:

  • Cheat
  • Use violence or physical contact that is not allowed within the rules
  • Shout or argue with officials, team mates or opponents
  • Harm team members, opponents or their property
  • Bully or use bullying tactics to isolate another player
  • Use unfair or bullying tactics to gain advantage
  • Take banned substances
  • Keep secrets, especially if they have been caused harm
  • Tell lies about adults / young people
  • Spread rumours

Guidelines for Parents

  • Sarsfields GAA Club believes that parents should:
  • Be a role model for your child and maintain the highest standards of conduct when interacting with children, other parents, with officials and organisers
  • Always behave responsibly and do not seek to unfairly affect the game / player
  • Never intentionally expose any young participant to embarrassment or disparagement by the use of flippant or sarcastic remarks
  • Always recognise the value and importance of the volunteers who provide sporting/recreational opportunities for your child. Do not publicly question the judgement or honesty of referees, coaches or organisers.  Respect referees, coaches, organisers and other players, (insert appropriate wording for your sport).  
  • Encourage your child to play by the rules. Teach your child that honest endeavour is as important as winning and do all you can to encourage good sportsmanship.
  • Set a good example by applauding good play on both sides. Encourage mutual respect for teammates and opponents, (insert appropriate wording for your sport)
  • Parents should support all efforts to remove abusive behaviour and bullying behaviour in all its forms. Please read bullying policy within the club / organisation’s guidelines.

It is expected that parents of children in the kindergarten (under 6’s) remain on the premises during Saturday morning training

Parents Code of Conduct:

  1. I will respect the rules and procedures set down in Sarsfields GAA Club’s Code of Ethics for Children in Sport.
  2. I will respect my child’s teammates, leaders, (e.g. coaches, officials, judges), and parents, as well as players, parents and coaches from opposing teams. I will encourage my child to treat other participants, coaches, selectors, and managers with respect.
  3. I will give encouragement and applaud only positive accomplishments whether from my child, his/her teammates, their opponents or the officials.
  4. I will respect my child’s leader(s) and support his/her efforts.
  5. I will respect the officials and their authority during sessions and event.
  6. I will never demonstrate threatening or abusive behaviour or use foul language.
  7. I will refrain from smoking while on playing pitches.

Guidelines for Sports Leaders

Leaders in children’s sport should strive to create a positive environment for the children in their care.  They have an overall responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure that positive and healthy experiences are provided.

Sarsfields GAA Club recognises the key role leaders (coaches, selectors and team managers, etc.) play in the lives of children in sport.   

All Leaders should have as their first priority the children’s safety and enjoyment of the sport and should adhere to the guidelines and regulations set out in the club’s Code of Ethics.

Leaders must respect the rights, dignity and worth of every child and must treat everyone equally, regardless of sex, ethnic origin, religion or ability.

Leaders working with young people in gaelic football, hurling and camogie should be suitable and appropriately qualified.   Leaders will be expected to go through appropriate recruitment and/or selection procedures. References will be needed and may be followed up.

There will be a ‘sign-up’ procedure, whereby the appointed/reappointed leaders agree to abide by the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children in Sport and to the policies and code of the club.

Leaders will be given access to a copy of the club’s code of ethics and they should be made aware of the procedures contained within the club‘s code.

Once appointed the Leader must act as a role model and promote the positive aspects of sport and of gaelic football, hurling and camogie and maintain the highest standards of personal conduct.

The use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco must be actively discouraged as being incompatible with a healthy approach to sporting activity.   

Leader’s behaviour to players, other officials, and opponents will have an effect on the players in your care.

Be generous with praise and never ridicule or shout at players for making mistakes or for losing a game.  All young players are entitled to respect.

Be careful to avoid the “star system”.  Each child deserves equal time and attention.

Care must be taken not to expose a child intentionally or unintentionally to embarrassment or disparagement by use of sarcastic or flippant remarks about the child or his/her family.

Physical punishment or physical force must never be used.  

Insist that players respect the rules of the game.   Insist on fair play and ensure players are aware that cheating or bullying behaviour will not be tolerated.

Encourage the development of respect for opponents, officials, selectors and other coaches.

When travel/overnight travel is involved, the Leaders traveling with children must sign a separate agreement. Parents and participants will also be asked to sign permission forms in these instances.

Leaders are responsible for setting and monitoring the boundaries between a working relationship and friendship with players.  It is advisable for coaches not to involve young players in their personal life i.e. visits to coaches home or overnight stays.  

Avoid working alone and ensure there is adequate supervision for all activities.

When young players are invited into adult groups/squads, it is advisable to get agreement from a parent/carer

Leaders should communicate and co-operate with medical and ancillary practitioners in the diagnosis, treatment and management of their players’ medical or related problems. Avoid giving advice of a personal or medical nature if you are not qualified to do so.  Any information of a personal or medical nature must be kept strictly confidential unless the welfare of the child requires the passing on of this information

The nature of the relationship between leader and a participant can often mean that a leader will learn confidential information about a player or player’s family.  This information must be regarded as confidential and except where abuse is suspected, must not be divulged to a third party without the express permission of the player/family

Set realistic goals for the participants and do not push young players. Create a safe and enjoyable environment

Leaders should avoid the use of alcohol, before coaching, during events, on trips with young players

Guidelines Club Children’s Officer

The Children’s Officer will act as a resource for all members of the club with regard to children’s issues. They will ensure that the children have a voice in the running of their club and can talk freely about their experiences in their sports activities. The Children’s Officer will have access to the Club Executive Committee and will have as a primary aim the establishment of a child centred ethos within the club.

The Children’s Officer will have the following functions:

  • To promote awareness of the Sarsfields Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport in Ireland within the club and particularly among the children and their parents/guardians. This could be achieved by the production of information leaflets, the establishment of children’s/age-group specific notice boards and by regular information meetings for the children and their parents/guardians
  • To influence policy and practice within the club in order to prioritise children’s needs
  • To provide an accessible resource to children
  • To see that children know how to make concerns known to appropriate adults or agencies. Information disclosed by a child to the Children’s Officer or any other adult within the club should be dealt with in accordance with the Department of Health and Children’s Guidelines Children First and the Department of Health and Social Services
  • To encourage the involvement of parents/guardians in the club activities and co-operate with parents/guardians in ensuring that each child enjoys his/her involvement in sport
  • To act as an advisory resource to Sports Leaders on best practice in children’s sport
  • To report regularly to the Club Executive Committee
  • To monitor changes in membership and follow up any unusual dropout, absenteeism or club transfers by children or Sports Leaders

Children’s Officers do not have the responsibility of investigating or validating child protection concerns within the club and have no counselling or therapeutic role. It is, however, possible that child protection concerns will be brought to the attention of the Children’s Officer.

Recruitment and Selection Policy for Leaders/Volunteers  

Sarsfields GAA Club will take all reasonable steps to ensure that people working with young people are suitable and appropriately qualified.  Recruitment and selection procedures are therefore necessary and these procedures apply to all persons with substantial access to young people, whether paid or unpaid.

Every effort should be made to manage and support appointed Sport Leaders. Adequate supervision should always be provided; a leader should not have to work alone.

There will be a “sign-up” procedure, whereby the newly recruited volunteers, agrees to abide by the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children in Sport and to the club / association’s Code and policies.

Volunteers should fill in an application form, giving names of two referees that will be contacted.

All information provided will be reviewed only by the selection committee and held in the strictest confidence.

The decision to appoint a Sports Leader is the responsibility of the recruitment committee (Chairman, Secretary and Juvenile Chairman)


Guidelines on General Issues

Travelling with children

There is extra responsibility taken on by leaders when they travel with children to events.  When traveling with young people you should:

  • Ensure that there is adequate insurance cover
  • Not carry more than the permitted number of passengers
  • Ensure use of safety belts
  • Avoid being alone with one participant, put passenger in the back seat, drop off at central locations or seek parental permission to transport an individual participant on a regular basis and clearly state times of pick- up and drop off


  • Make sure there is an adequate adult: child ratio.
  • Where there are mixed groups there should be leaders of both genders
  • Avoid being alone with one participant, if you need to talk separately do so in an open environment, in view of others
  • In changing rooms, ask parents to take responsibility and supervise in pairs of appropriate gender
  • Leaders should not have to enter the changing rooms unless children are very young or need special assistance, where supervision should be in pairs of appropriate gender
  • Clearly state time for start and end of training sessions or competitions, leaders should remain in pairs until all participants have been collected
  • Keep attendance records and record of any incidents / injuries that arise
  • Ask parents to stay and supervise sessions, (for safety and supervision, not necessarily for their ‘technical’ expertise)

Away trips / Overnight stays

  • Separate permission forms should be signed by parents and participants, containing emergency contact number
  • Young participants should sign a behaviour agreement
  • Appoint a group leader who will make a report on returning home
  • A meeting with parents and participants is useful to communicate travel times, competition details, other activities, gear requirements, medical requirements, special dietary needs and any other necessary details
  • Rooming arrangements – adults should not share rooms with children, children share rooms with those of same age and gender and adults should knock before entering rooms
  • All group socialisation should take place in communal areas (i.e. no boys in girls’ rooms and vice versa).
  • Alcoholic drink, smoking or other illegal substances are forbidden to players.
  • There must be at least one adult of each gender with a mixed party, there should be a good adult – child ratio, Lights out times should be enforced
  • Young players should be under reasonable supervision at all times and should never leave the venue or go unsupervised without prior permission

Use of Photographic and Filming Equipment

Sarsfields GAA Club has adopted a policy in relation to the use of images of athletes on its websites and in other publications as there have been concerns about the risks posed directly and indirectly to children and young people through the use of photographs on sports websites and other publications.  Where possible we will try to use models or illustrations when promoting an activity and avoid the use of the first name and surname of individuals in a photograph.  This reduces the risk of inappropriate, unsolicited attention from people within and outside the sport.

Videoing as a coaching aid:  Video equipment can be used as a legitimate coaching aid

Anyone concerned about any photography taking place at events or training sessions can contact the Children’s Officer or the Juvenile Chairman and ask them to deal with the matter.

Reporting Accidents or Incidents

In the event of an accident or incident the occurrence must be reported in the Incident Report Log (maintained in the Club House). In the event of an accident contact should be made with the parents/guardians and the emergency services/GP if required. All the facts surrounding the incident or accident should be recorded. The Children’s Officer or Juvenile Chairman should be notified of the accident or incident as soon as possible.

Child Welfare and Protection Procedures

Sarsfields GAA Club accepts that organisations, which include young people among its members, are vulnerable to the occurrence of child abuse. Below are the procedures for dealing with any welfare or protection issue that may arise.  Child welfare and the protection of young people is the concern of all adults at all times, irrespective of their role within the organisation.

If there are grounds for concern about the safety or welfare of a young person you should react to the concern. Persons unsure about whether or not certain behaviours are abusive and therefore reportable should contact the duty social worker in the local HSE or social services department where you should seek an informal consultation and you will receive advise. Grounds for concern include a specific indication from a child, a statement from a person who witnessed abuse or an illness, injury or behaviour consistent with abuse.

A report may be made by any member in the club but should be passed on to the Children’s Officer or Juvenile Chairman who may in turn have to pass the concern to the local Statutory Authorities. It is not the responsibility of anyone working within Sarsfields GAA Club in a paid or voluntary capacity, or those working in affiliated organisations, to take responsibility or decide whether or not child abuse is taking place. That is the job of the local statutory authorities. However, there is a responsibility to protect children by assisting the appropriate agencies so that they can then make enquiries and take any necessary action to protect the young person.

Discipline, Complaints and Appeals

Discipline in sport should always be positive in focus, providing the structure and rules that allow participants to learn to set their own goals and strive for them. It should encourage young people to become more responsible for themselves and therefore more independent.

The main form of discipline should be positive reinforcement for effort. It should encourage the development of emotional and social skills as well as skills in sport. Children should be helped to become responsible about the decisions and choices they make within sport, particularly when they are likely to make a difference between playing fairly and unfairly. There should be no place for fighting, over-aggressive or dangerous behaviour in sport. Participants should treat others in a respectful manner. They should not interfere with, bully or take unfair advantage of others

Discipline Levels

The use of sanctions is an important element in the maintenance of discipline. Coaches have the authority to apply sanctions where deemed necessary, however, coaches should have a clear understanding of where and when particular sanctions are appropriate. The age and developmental stage of the child should be taken into consideration when using sanctions. The following steps are suggested:

Minor Offences

  • a warning should be given if a rule is broken, e.g. poor conduct.
  • a sanction (for example, use of time out) should be applied if a rule is broken for a second time.
  • if a rule is broken three or more times, the child should be spoken to, and if necessary, the parents/guardians should be informed.
  • If the offences continue the coach can request that the player be suspended from training & matches for a defined period

Serious Offences

Serious offences can be defined as:

  • Continuous breaches of discipline
  • Refusal to carry out the instructions of the coach
  • Willful damage to club property or that of visiting teams, or
  • Bringing the club into disrepute through the player’s actions during a training session, match or any event organised by the club.

In the event of such incidents occurring, the coach can ask the parent/guardian to collect their child from the training/match and suspend the player from playing or training for a defined period. The coach may also report the incident to the disciplinary committee of Sarsfields GAA Club if s/he deems it necessary. On receipt of any such complaint the disciplinary committee will investigate the incident and recommend any further punishment deemed proportionate to the offence involved.

Appointment of Disciplinary Committee

The Disciplinary Committee should consist of a representative from the Management Committee (e.g. the Chairperson), the Children’s Officer and an ordinary registered member of the club. Regular turnover of this committee is recommended. The issue of confidentiality is important. Information is on a need to know basis.

Complaint Procedure

It is the responsibility of the Disciplinary Committee to resolve problems relating to the conduct of its members. A complaint of any incident of suspected misconduct, including bullying, but does not relate to child abuse should be dealt with by the Disciplinary Committee.
The Disciplinary Committee should inform the individual with details of the complaint being made against him/ her and afford him/ her the opportunity of providing a response either verbally or in writing.
It is recommended that the Disciplinary Committee meet with all parties involved, affording each party the same rights and opportunities. The Disciplinary Committee should form a written report outlining the procedure followed, findings, conclusions and any disciplinary actions to be taken. All parties should receive a copy of this report. This report should also be kept on record. The Disciplinary Committee should, as soon as possible, inform the Management Committee of the progress and conclusions of the disciplinary process.


Where it is established that an incident of misconduct has taken place, the disciplinary committee should notify the member of any sanction being imposed. The notification should be made in writing, setting out the reasons for the sanction. If the member is under 18 years of age, correspondence should be addressed to parents/ guardians.

Appeal Procedure

if the member against whom the complaint was made is unhappy with the decision of the Disciplinary Committee s/ he should have the right to appeal the decision to an Appeals Committee (independent of the Disciplinary Committee). Any appeal should be made in writing within 7 days after issue of the decision of the Disciplinary Committee. The Chairperson of the Appeals Committee should be a member of the Management Committee or elected by the members at an AGM.
The Appeals Committee have the power to confirm, set aside or change any sanction imposed by the Disciplinary Committee.
If any party is not satisfied with the outcome, the matter can be referred to the National Children’s Officer. However efforts to resolve the issue at local level should be exhausted before the National Children’s Officer is engaged in attempts to resolve the matter. Any Appeal submitted at National level will be heard by the Management Committee, with their decision being final.

Leader’s / Coaches Code of Conduct

Leaders / Coaches should familiarise themselves with the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport and with the Sarsfields GAA Club Code of Conduct and follow the procedures if they suspect or receive complaints of abuse of any sort

Leaders should be

Positive during session, praise and encourage effort as well as results

Plan and prepare appropriately

Put welfare of young person first, strike a balance between this and winning / results

Encourage fair play, treat participants equally

Recognise developmental needs

Qualified and up-to-date with knowledge and skill of sport for young people

Involve parents where possible and inform parents when problems arise

Keep record of attendance at training

Keep a brief record of injury(s) and action taken

Keep a brief record of problem/action/outcomes, if behavioural problems arise


Format for Disciplinary Committee’s Report

Below is a suggested outline of how to write up a report following a complaint. Additional information may be added to the format.

State the nature of the complaint and individuals involved

1. Who the Disciplinary Committee consisted of
2. Who the Disciplinary Committee met with
3. Any additional parties who the Disciplinary Committee met with/ spoke to, for example the Health Board may have been contacted

Summarize the main findings from the above meetings and the final decision met by the Disciplinary Committee following these meetings

State any sanctions, which the Disciplinary Committee have imposed on any individuals as a result of the complaint

State any recommendations which the Disciplinary Committee feel are necessary to prevent such a complaint occurring again e.g. all club members involved with underage players attend a Child Protection course

All members of the Disciplinary Committee should sign and date the report


Sarsfields GAA club wishes to thank the Kildare Sports Partnership for all their assistance in preparing this Code of ethics including providing a master copy of a Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Sport for Young People

The guidelines in this document are based on the national guidelines as outlined in the following documents

Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport, Irish Sports Council, 2000.

Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children, Dept. of Health & Children 1999

Our Duty to Care, Dept. of Health & Children 2002

Code of Best Practice for Youth Sport Cumann Lúthchleas Gael