• Marcia Campagna

4 Tips for Coaching Youth with Communication Disabilities

An inclusive team environment starts by recognizing that everyone communicates differently.

Soccer team discussing a play

Here are some tips for Coaches to create an inclusive team culture.

1. Commit to Awareness and Understanding

Commit to learning and understanding your players' communication styles.

Each player is unique and essential to your team dynamics

Consider that someone on your team may be hard of hearing, have ADHD, Autism, or other Sensory challenges.

Seek to understand and put yourself in their shoes.

2. Ask Questions

The only way to really know how to support someone is to ask. Everyone and every situation is different, what works for one person may not work for another.

Parents are subject matter experts. They know their children. They are part of your team dynamics.

Parents are your best resource and ally for how to best serve their child. Express a willingness to learn and acknowledge them as the expert.

Encourage your players to ask questions. Make sure to create a safe space for conversations and that you're respectful of the person's privacy.

3. Advocate for More Support Staff

Resources often dictate the number of support staff available to a coach to accommodate specific player needs.

This when your creativity comes into play. Consider a high school athlete who needs service hours and is looking for leadership experience - maybe they could act as an assistant.

Again... use the child's support system, i.e parents, to come up with different ideas...

4. Communicate via Multiple Channels

  • Face people when you talk to them as much as you can

  • Recap a game review with written note to the team afterward

  • Provide transcripts so players can follow along to videos that have poor audio quality

  • Attach clear text labels to different scenarios when discussing plays on a drawing board

Complement verbal communication with visual aids.

Complement visual communication with audio communication or text-based communication and vice versa.

Adapted from Including Youth With Communication Disabilities in Sports by Erin Stauder (ASHA Leader)

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