Mixed Age Group Guidance - Best practice on different age groups playing & competing

Dividing young people into groups on the basis of age has traditionally been used as a tool for ‘matching’ those of supposedly similar abilities.

Young people develop at very different rates physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. If young people are unevenly matched, particularly in sports such as basketball, it can increase the risk of injury and psychological stress.

Regardless of a young person’s size or sports ability, their status and potential vulnerability as a young person should not be ignored. 

In the interest of safeguarding, Basketball England recommends the following key issues that must be considered and addressed before allowing any mixed age group participation:

Consent 

Should a club choose to mix any age groups, they should obtain a signed parental consent form for any child or young person which plays up or trains within a higher division or with individuals outside their age group. 

This consent form should indicate which team they are playing up to and the details around why this decision has been made. It is best to be transparent and open with parents and make them aware of any arrangements that are in place to help support their child. 

Where a junior player is playing up to a senior team, alongside parental consent, a liability waiver for junior players needs to be submitted to Basketball England. This form can be found under the NBL Resources page here

Physical Safety

An assessment of the possible risks to a young person in engaging in the activity with older (probably larger) competitors should be undertaken before any young person is allowed to play/compete/train. Making judgement on the young persons age alone is not suitable as both physical and emotional development should influence decision making. 

While a comparatively well-built young person may be able to compete physically with older participants, they may struggle with other aspects of their involvement (e.g. the way in which the competitive ethos is expressed or demonstrated by older players) and these other aspects must be considered in any assessment. 

Supervision

You will need to ensure that adequate arrangements have been made for the young person(s) to be supervised by an appropriate person, this could be by their parents or a member of the team's coaching staff that are adequately safeguarding training and DBS checked. 

Changing/Showering Arrangements

Any changing/showering arrangements should cater for the needs of potentially a single young person amongst a larger group of adults. It may be necessary to consider separate changing/showering arrangements for young people and this could include them using the same facilities but at slightly different times to the adults, or allowing them to change and shower at home.

If at any point a child feels uncomfortable changing or showering in front of others, no pressure should be placed on them to do so and alternative arrangements should be considered.

Travel and Sleeping Arrangements

When events are held away from the club, or involve overnight stays, arrangements need to be made to ensure the well-being of the young person(s). Basic issues such as food preferences (particularly for travel abroad) need to be discussed.

Consideration should be given to young people sharing rooms with others of similar ages;

  • ensuring same-sex sleeping arrangements; 
  • Adequate supervision arrangements (Guidance on supervision ratios can be found here). 

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) have developed a safety checklist for travelling abroad with Under 18's, it highlights the areas you should be thinking about and what to have in place to ensure everyone's safety is put first. It can be found by clicking here.

Basketball England has also developed an overnight toolkit which is a step by step set of resources to help clubs & teams that are travelling abroad/overnight put the correct documents/consents/risk assessments in place for the trip.

The toolkit can be downloaded here and all the templates can be found here.

Codes of Conduct

Members of Basketball England already sign up to Basketball England's Code of Ethics & Conduct but it is good practice to reinforce these codes of conduct before travelling and get all adults and young people to re-sign up to relevant codes of conduct to ensure issues like appropriate language, behaviour (e.g. alcohol, smoking, relationships between young people and adults or other young people etc.) are covered before travelling and it sets a clear standard expected of the whole group whilst travelling. 

Raising Concerns

Before, during and after the trip, it should be clear to the young person and all other parties how any concerns can be raised and with whom. There should be an environment of openness allowing anyone within the group to raise concerns and those concerns be dealt with as soon as appropriate. 

A designated person should be nominated to be the lead for any concerns or safeguarding issues within the group and they should have to hand access to external contacts such as their clubs own Club Welfare Officer, the National Safeguarding Lead, Childline (0800 1111) and the NSPCC (0808 800 5000).

Basketball England does not advise that young people under the age of 14 or children be placed in play or training with adults aged 18 or over.

More sport specific safeguarding advice, guidance and templates can be found on our safeguarding home pages and generic guidance and advice on safeguarding within sport can be found via the Child Protection in Sport Unit's website - www.thecpsu.org.uk