Training A Coach

When you think of youth sports, what comes to mind–the kids in your programs or maybe your daughter or son playing a sport of choice? Do you ever think about children with Down syndrome, autism or other disabilities? Why not? Statistics show one in 91 children are diagnosed with autism. Children with disabilities are no longer sitting on the sidelines, watching their siblings participate; they are becoming active members of programs and communities.

As a member of a youth-sports organization or community entity, how are you preparing coaches and agencies to successfully meet the needs of current and future athletes?

For a youth-sports coach, including children with disabilities may be intimidating. Since most of these coaches are volunteers, typically they have not been exposed to children with disabilities, and may know little about them. Even paid coaches can be in this situation. This usually flips the fear-factor into effect, which means the coach does not know what to do or how to handle it. The biggest barrier oftentimes is attitude. A coach has the opportunity to change that, and provide for inclusion. Ironically, some programs are already doing this without knowing it.

No Blanket Solutions

Just as each athlete is unique, so is each athlete with a disability. No two people with the same diagnosis are the same. For example, Child A, who has Down syndrome, may have heart issues and atlantoaxial subluxation, a misalignment of cervical vertebrae C-1 and C-2 in the neck. This exposes an individual to the possibility of injury if he or she participates in activities that hyperextend or radically flex the neck or upper spine. Then there is Child B, who has Down syndrome, but does not have any other health-related issues. Each child should receive accommodations appropriate for the situation and needs.

Age-Appropriate Groups

Coaches also should be warned against putting an athlete with an intellectual disability in an inappropriate group. For example, someone may look at a 15-year-old and decide that since the cognitive functioning level is more in line with a 5-year-old, he or she should be moved to that age bracket. This is not advised. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. It states that the individual should be placed with age-appropriate peers, not functioning level. Consider that, if you wouldn’t want an able-bodied 15-year-old playing soccer or basketball with a 5-year-old, then why would it be OK for someone who is functioning at a lower level? If nothing else, think of the mere safety factor of the size difference. Putting the 15-year-old with age-appropriate peers teaches age-appropriate behavior, social skills and physical skills, for not only the game, but life. Also, think about his or her teammates and the opportunity to change those attitude barriers.

Hands-On Help

Think of the kid who is hyper and doesn’t seem to listen or pay attention. As a result, he or she doesn’t pick up the skills as quickly as others on the team. Instead of using only verbal skills with little demonstration, try to teach the same skills hands-on for the kid not getting the skills. For example, instead of demonstrating how to scoop up a ball with a lacrosse stick, physically put your hands over the player’s hands on the stick, walk through the movement, and repeat. Correct repetition is a key component. This technique is often referred to as hand-over-hand. It works great in teaching skills to those who can’t stand still, have impaired fine motor skills, or have trouble focusing.

Professional Training

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Coach the Coach
  2. All-Around Involvement
  3. Dissecting Drafts
  4. Online Training
  5. An Even Playing Field
  • Columns
  • Departments