What is Behaviour?

Sometimes children may behave in ways that could place the child or others at risk of harm or danger. This could involve physical actions (e.g., overly rough play, damaging equipment) or the way that a child interacts with others (e.g., shouting, saying unkind things), or difficulty engaging a child in footy activities (e.g., not listening to the coach or following instructions, children running away).

Behaviour always serves a purpose. It is a means of communicating what someone is feeling, or a need or a want that is not being met. Things that might increase the likelihood of these behaviours include communication, social and cognitive challenges, and feeling anxious or scared.

What might be some challenges on the footy field?

On the footy field, behaviour might include rough play (e.g., pushing, hitting, or heavily bumping others), running away and/or not listening to the coach, or verbal aggression (e.g., yelling or shouting at others). Some kids may show behaviour that impacts the footy activities or group session, such as loud, disruptive, and/or hyperactive behaviour.

Quick tips

  • Set understandable rules: Develop clear and simple rules for attendance, punctuality, behaviour and sportsmanship. Make sure the rules are simple enough for the kids to understand
  • Teach kids the rules: Help kids understand the rules and why they are there.
  • Teach parents the rules: Teach parents the rules too so they can reinforce it with their child.
  • Have a consistent routine: Provide predictability by having a consistent routine at each session.
  • Focus on the behaviour and not the child: Focus on the behaviour not the child, e.g., saying “that behaviour is not okay” rather than “you are not okay”
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key. If rules or penalties are set, it is important they are followed at all times. Everyone should try to respond in the same fair and calm way, including coaches, assistants and parents.
  • Praise good behaviour: Focus on and praise the behaviour you want to see. It is better to reward desired behaviour than discipline undesired behaviour.
  • Involve parents: If behaviours of concern persist, involve the child and their parents to discuss solutions.
  • Have a ‘safe’ backup or ‘diverting’ activity: Have a ‘safe’ activity that the child can do if things become too demanding. This would be an activity that they enjoy and are able to do well.
  • Allow breaks to calm down: Some kids might get upset if they feel like they haven’t done something perfectly. Allow them a break or to do whatever they need to calm down.
  • Parents can help calm kids: Sometimes kids might become angry and upset with other children and the reason for this might not be clear. Giving them a break and getting their parents to help might assist them to calm down.
  • Communicate clearly: Make sure you have the child’s attention before giving instructions. Use short sentences. Only give 1-2 instructions at a time. Check the child’s understanding by asking them what you have said.
  • Have a visual schedule: Use a visual schedule that kids can see at all times so they know what’s coming up and can easily transition from one activity to the next.
  • Interrupt carefully: Some kids might get upset if someone interrupts the way they do something. Try to understand why they are doing something in a particular way. Allowing them to keep doing things their own way or giving them a break might help.
  • Use footy stories: A footy story might be needed to teach a kid a new football skill or to help them play.
  • There is usually a lead up to behaviour and a consequence: Think about what the triggers of a behaviour might be and change or avoid them. There is usually a response to or consequence of behaviour which might inadvertently reward it and make it likely to occur again. For example, a child might be sent off to an adjacent playground which is where they would like to be. So change the consequence for example to go and spend some time hand balling with an assistant coach.

Things to consider

Behavioural concerns are often a sign of a different underlying area of challenge, such as understanding instructions, paying attention, or regulating emotions. See the tips for Cognition, Communication, Attention, and Anxiety for more information about these areas. It is important to speak to a parent if you have behaviour concerns – they know their child best and may be able to help understand triggers for the behaviour of concern and what strategies work. See the ‘How to’ page for tips on how to tell a parent you have a concern about their child’s behaviour.

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