You should not underestimate the impact your coaching can have on disabled people. You can inspire and motive them to continue to play their sport. Current sports participation statistics tell us that there is still much work to be done to support disabled people in sport. Did you know that:
- sports participation among disabled people is significantly lower across all age groups than the overall population.
- the proportion of disabled people receiving tuition or coaching is lower than the overall population.
Sports coach UK spoke to a number of disabled people involved in sport at all levels. The following responses and guidance has been taken from those conversations.
Here’s what our interviewees said:
“A good coach is someone who is understanding. I think the most important thing is one that you can get on with and one that communicates well with you. And I think you both need to be on the same wavelength. I mean, I think if your coach wants different things to what you want or if they have different goals to the athlete, I don’t think it works .… I think that’s the most important thing, you are both clear on what you are trying to do.” (Steve)
“You can’t beat practical experiences. Coaches need more of it. In terms of the older generation, they don’t understand disability. In their time disability was shut out of the way. So they’ve had to learn what disability is and change their view on it. A few weeks after coaching us they change their view.” (Ross)
- Positive lessons to learn:
- Involve disabled people in all of your session.
- Speak to and coach the person, not the impairment.
- Have a shared vision with your participants in terms of coaching goals and expectations. Communicate and work together to achieve them.
- Talk to your disabled participants about the best way to support them and. Plan to adapt activities when needed.
- Know the sport you coach. Have a passion to develop yourself as a coach.
“Coaches have a lack of understanding. There isn’t enough on offer for them to help them understand about CP, dwarfism that type of stuff, just a lack of understanding. It isn’t until they coach someone or talk to someone that they think, hang on a minute its not as scary as it first seems and then they carry on.” (Ross)
- Stop being so negative!
- Don’t assume you can’t coach disabled people – as well as your previous coaching experiences – a willingness and open mind are important qualities that will help you to coach disabled athletes.
- Not all disabled people want to only participate with other disabled people. Welcome more disabled people into your coaching session.
- Don’t learn everything you can about every impairment. Talk to the individual and adapt your session – they have the best knowledge of what their body can do.
- If an activity isn’t working for everyone, adapt it. Use the great coaching knowledge you have
- Don’t hide in your shell – Talk to, and learn from, other coaches and share your experiences and ideas about coaching disabled athletes.
“I’ve had experiences in the past where a coach has basically said he can’t do anything for me, that he thinks I can’t be helped to improve. So I was told not to bother to train. It’s not exactly inviting you to a session if you’ve been told nothing can be done for you.” (John)
“A good coach has to be able to understand me. You know, know my body, know how it moves. There’s no point thinking I’m like someone without a disability. So for me, my coach needs to be in tune with my body. Now to do this they’ve got to keep thinking all the time, they need to be reflective.” (Mark)
- What our interviewees want to see:
- From the start
- A warm welcome goes a long way. Confidently approach your participant and talk to them about what experience they have had and what they want to get out of your sessions. (Scope: #endtheawkward)
- How disabled people get to hear about your coaching sessions? You could advertise your sessions through the internet and local social networks supporting disabled people. (try your local County Sports Partnership)
- If you have not coached disabled people before be open-minded and see it as an opportunity to extend your experiences on your road to becoming a better coach.
- When you are guiding disabled people to coaching opportunities remember that some people may prefer to be coached with other disabled people (in disability sport settings). Other disabled people may prefer to be coached with mainly non-disabled people (in mainstream settings).
- Check your coaching venue is accessible (Contact EFDS for more details). It’s not just about ramps and lifts!
- During your session:
- Don’t get hung up with labels (for example, someone has ‘CP’, someone else has ADHD). See through the label and talk to the person.
- Remember we are all individuals. One disabled person will not be the same as another so coach the individual not the impairment.
- Remember to develop your sports specific technical knowledge as well as your understandings of disability. This will help you to work more effectively with disabled people.
- Communicate continually with everyone in your session and get their views on how it went at the end.
- Developing as an Inclusive coach: