5 ways to work with your child’s coach

Playing sports can be great for kids who learn and think differently. But you may need to help the coach understand your child’s strengths and challenges. Learn how to work with coaches to make sports a positive experience for your child.

Playing sports can be a great way for kids with learning and thinking differences to have fun, work on skills, and burn off energy. But having a coach who doesn’t understand your child can be a problem. And if the coach calls attention to your child’s challenges or is overly critical, it can be a disaster.

Here are some ways you can work with coaches to make sports a positive experience.

1. Explain your child’s challenges.

Coaches may know very little about learning and thinking differences. Or how they can affect more than just schoolwork. Even if they have a basic idea, they may not understand all the ways symptoms can show up. Explaining your child’s challenges to coaches may help them adjust their approach.

2. Give specifics.

The coach needs to know how your child’s challenges affect their playing. For example, after saying “My child has ADHD,” follow up with specifics about what the coach may be seeing. “My child understands the rules of the game, but may forget them in the heat of the moment.”

3. Share strategies that have worked before.

Your child’s coach may want to help but not know what to do. Try sharing some strategies that work at school, at home, or with other activities. For example, you might say that because your child has trouble remembering multi-step directions, written instructions can help. Then ask if the coaches can provide notes on the plays they’ll use in practice.

4. Be clear about any problems.

If something is upsetting you or your child, let the coach know about it. Be honest, but try to keep the conversation polite and respectful.

Have specific examples. Instead of saying “My child doesn’t like it when you yell,” try something like “My child gets upset when you yell, because they don’t know what they did wrong.” That opens more room for conversation. Some coaches may not even realize what they’re doing and are not trying to single out your child.

5. Hear the coach’s side.

Your child’s teacher focuses on helping your child succeed individually. But the coach’s responsibility is to the team. If your child is being too aggressive or not following the rules, the coach may get upset. Be open to hearing the coach’s side of the story. That way you can learn how your child’s behavior might be affecting the team. This allows you to work with your child on different strategies.

It’s possible that coaches may not be willing or able to change their approach to help your child. In that case, you might want to talk to an administrator at the sports program. Or switch your child to another team where the fit might be better.

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