As a coach you have the unique opportunity to engage children of all abilities in footy. Including children with disabilities is not hard; it just requires awareness and flexibility. A good coach is an inclusive coach.
Have the same expectations
Don’t lower expectations for children with disabilities. For example, if everyone is expected to pack up equipment at the end of the day, a child with a disability should also help. Be aware that they may need to be given a simpler or modified task.
Coach’s personal attitudes will have a real impact on the lives of kids with disabilities. Always be understanding, caring and think of things from the child’s perspective.
Be aware of how you speak to parents about their child, don’t make them feel inadequate. Be mindful how you communicate with others about a child with a disability. How would a child feel if spoken about in this way? How would their parents and family feel?
If unsure, ask the child
If you’re not sure how to modify an activity for a child ask the child for the best way for him/her to be successful. All children have their own unique strengths and abilities. Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t.
Parents know their child best
No matter how much you know about a particular disability, parents know their child the best. It’s always a good idea to talk to parents to find out the best way to communicate and work with their child. Parents can help you understand a child’s unique strengths and areas they need more help.
Before starting to coach the child you could ask questions like: What activities does your child enjoy the most? Are there any things they find particularly challenging? Are there things I can do to support his/her participation as much as possible? Are there situations that he/she finds stressful? Are there things that I can do to help your child understand or learn a new skill? What is the best way to communicate?
Change the activity not the child
If a child is struggling with an activity, remember the problem is not within the child, it is with the strategy. For example, you might say: “you seem to have difficulty doing this drill. I think we chose the wrong size target to use, let’s try it with a larger target.”
Create lots of roles
Some kids may prefer to be the umpire, the coach’s assistant, scorer, statistician, team manager, or announcer rather than play. Create lots of different roles so that everyone can be involved.
Consider how to create groups
Consider what group is best for each activity. The whole group, small groups or groups of similar abilities.
Pair children with buddies
Consider pairing a kid with a buddy to help them during activities. Older or more skilful kids can mentor others.
Get extra help
Having more coaches, parents or volunteers involved can support kids who need individual help to play.
Find the activity level that enables success
Provide activities where children can succeed and develop their self-esteem, particularly when a child first starts. Increasing the degree of difficulty slowly over time allows the child to continue to be challenged, without being disheartened.
Give the same time
Give kids with disabilities a similar amount of feedback, attention, and time as kids without a disability.
Find out more about the ‘CHANGE IT’ approach for inclusive coaching