Coaching children in sports is challenging enough much more if it involves coaching children with special needs. Sports activities are quintessential parts in the growing years of a child where they can be physically fit, enhance their self-confidence, learn to cooperate, develop their leadership skills, make new friends, and focus their energy into something positive. However, all these can be a little difficult to realize for children with physical and mental impairments.
Oftentimes, impaired children who are interested to engage in sporting endeavors are confronted with numerous obstacles when they try to join a sports group or team. Some coaches have reservations in accepting children with disabilities into their team for fear that they cannot be effective in coaching children with special needs. But, that does not stop at all the desire of some parents to enlist their special child into sports training and see them excel in the playing field.
Pointers in Coaching Children with Disabilities
• Children with special needs require special attention by emphasizing the individual abilities of each child as member of a sporting team. It is necessary to identify each child’s strength and weakness to adapt their needs and capabilities to the game play. As an example, children with attention deficiency may have to be given simple and frequent instructions to always keep them on their toes while introvert children may require extra motivation and reinforcement to enjoin their participation in group activities. A good technique is to allow them to occupy various positions to find out where they excel most. Once they know where they are comfortable, they can easily gain confidence and a sense of belonging. It even encourages them to pursue other interests besides sports.
• Recognize developmental differences in children with disabilities. They differ from other children in terms of physiological, motor, emotional, and cognitive capacities. Compared to normal children in the same age bracket, kids with special needs have less control of their body; thus, they are less accurate in hitting the marks. They are inclined to get tired more easily and their developmental differences are usually evident in their difficulty to execute simple exercises.
• Discuss with parents the particular disability of their child to establish the appropriate training routine for the children. An impaired child may not be able to cope with the regular resistance exercise design for the more capable teammates; hence, there is the need to design a lighter activity that can still enable them to catch up with the rest of the group. Know the important medical requirements in case they may need some special treatment when they suddenly felt ill during training. Oftentimes, there is a need to establish individualized training strategies to ensure the safety of special children while they participate in the activities.
• Use positive reinforcement by commending the children’s effort to learn and accept instructions. The use of positive reinforcement in coaching children with special needs are effective in increasing their self-confidence and their interest to continue with their sports training due to the uplifting and enjoyable experience they have. However, regardless of any physical or mental condition of the young athletes, a good coach must always instil the basic sense of sportsmanship by teaching them how to be humble during victory and accept defeat with equal modesty. Children with special needs have more sensitive ego thus the importance of fun in any game needs to be stressed with winning as an added bonus. The coach must never allow bullying or teasing within the team or directed at the opposing team especially if they are focused on a child with impairment.
It is extremely unfair to prevent children with disabilities from taking part in sports because, just like any ordinary kid, they deserve to experience the joy of winning or the agony of defeat in the sporting arena. Being engaged in sports activity have been proven to be beneficial in the development of coordination and increasing self-assurance thus coaching children with special needs is a wonderful opportunity to influence young lives to blossom out from their cocoon of depression and self-pity.