Chaperones play a vital role in many sporting clubs. They take responsibility for the welfare and the conduct of the athletes under their care but they’re also role models which is why it’s so important to get it right. It’s an important job but it’s not for everyone. Think carefully before signing up for this responsibility. What’s involved and do you have what it takes?

Often parents are the obvious answer when a club is looking for chaperones. They have extensive experience managing and dealing with children and are likely to know at least some of the athletes in their care. However, chaperones don’t have to be parents. Anyone can be a chaperone if they have the right skills and attitude.

The ability to deal with large groups. Away trips and big events are exciting and fully-charged children and young adults can be difficult to manage en masse. A good chaperone is focussed and attentive and able to identify problems almost before they happen.

Confidence in communicating with children. It’s important to remember that children and young people are not small adults. They’re not often reasonable and unselfish. There will be conflicts, tantrums, fights and tears, even (or perhaps especially) in a group who are all in their teens. A good chaperone is gentle, consistent, decisive and calm when dealing with children and young adults and, above all, patient.

Appropriate behaviour at all times. Chaperones are role models and, as such, should behave in a positive manner. A good chaperone is mindful of the way they speak around children, uses his or her mobile phone at appropriate times, never consumes alcohol or drugs and socialises with other chaperones and adult colleagues in the right place and at the right time. Chaperones should also be familiar with club policies pertaining to Child Protection and always engage in an appropriate manner with the children or young people in their care. The law requires all adults working with children to have completed a Working with Children Check.

The ability to follow schedules and routines. Much of a chaperone’s job involves ensuring athletes know and understand what is required of them and when. A good chaperone helps those in their care to (among other things) get to matches on time and with the right gear, attend meetings and meals, make curfew and get on the bus before it leaves. The safety of all may be compromised by a chaperone who doesn’t follow the schedules and rules set down by the club or coach.

The skills and mindset to handle an emergency. A chaperone may be required to transport an injured or sick athlete to a hospital or take the lead in an emergency situation. This needs to be done with common sense and in accordance with the club’s codes and guidelines while also keeping the relevant parties informed (parents, coaches, etc.).

A chaperone’s role may vary from club to club and from one team or event to the next. The list of responsibilities can change depending on the age of the athletes, the nature of the event and the skills and qualifications of other accompanying adults.

A more detailed list of some of the tasks that may be required of a chaperone is included in Play by the Rules’ Chaperone Policy Template, a handy and easy-to-use starting point for any club developing policy around the use and management of chaperones.

Play by the Rules offers free online training, information and resources for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment.