Youth Sports Coaching and Behavioral Disorders can Co-exist
I coach many youth, who have behavior disorders, but I am not even close to an expert on behavioral disorders, so the following are just my youth sports coaching experiences, and not meant to be a how to manual.
Youth sports coaching is very challenging to begin with, as coaches have to teach game skills, strategy, safety, etc. Along with that, youth sports coaching involve dealing with kids, who have different personalities, behaviors, and interests.
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My first experiences with players with disorders was very frustrating, as I could not understand why players could not pay attention, sit still, integrate with other kids, constantly ask what time it was, appear to daydream constantly, not do what I just told them to try, among other behaviors. My first inclination was to get upset with those players, ask them if they really wanted to play, and either ignore them, or sit them down for a while. Over time, I became much more aware of players with behavior disorders, as well as becoming better prepared with dealing with them. Learning to deal with all type players became one of my most rewarding experiences with youth sports coaching.
Adults, who volunteer to coach, must prepare themselves for players, who have these. Sure it is challenging, but it can be a very rewarding experience for coaches, not to mention a great learning experience for all, players, parents and coaches, alike. Coaches, who best deal with players with behavioral disorders, earn the respect of all.
Tips for youth sports coaching to deal with behavior disorders
- At the preseason parent meeting, ask parents to get a hold of them in private to discuss any players that have any behavior issues.
- At that time, ask parents for any advice on working with their child.
- Ask parents if it is OK for you to discuss the learning disorder with other coaches, other parents, and/or players. Some parents may not want others to know, or at least the name of the disorder, so coaches should find that out before proceeding. Others, adults and players alike, are usually much more accepting of others with behavioral disorders, when they are aware of it.
- Learn about dealing with those type players by going on line to read about the disorder and for tips to deal with it. A little knowledge of the behavioral disorder will immensely help coaches to prepare for the situation. For example, simply knowing that a player cannot sit still for long, let alone pay attention to extended talks, helps coaches organize practices accordingly.
- Discuss the player’s disorder with the other coaches, so continuity and a plan is coordinated among the coaching staff.
- Show patience with players for all others to see, which helps relax other players and coaches, too.
- Help other coaches and players deal with the players, too. Depending on the age of players, coaches can make a particular players’ behavior known to other players, with parents’ permission, so they better understand and so they accept them for who they are.
- Be careful not to spend extraordinary time with those players and neglect others. Coaches should abide by the process of working with each player equally. Often, that is easier said than done, though, but the right way to coach.
- Act when behavior disorders become dangerous to others, or when behavior takes away from other players’ enjoyment of playing, by addressing that with their parents, so a plan of action is possible.
- Keep all parents informed that the coaching staff is doing all they can to help all the players improve and integrate into a team to the best of their ability.
Coaches must look for the positives in all players and bring those out to player them-self and to team members. Only as a last resort, when players are beyond a coach’s control and they take away from the safety and/or enjoyment, should coaches ask parents to remove behavioral problem players.
Finally, it is worth noting that my sport coaching experiences are with baseball, a sport where being hit by balls and bats present a danger that may not exist with other sports.