file000568230094 If you are  a sport coach working with children with ADHD you know it is a tough work…

 

For many children with ADHD, the most formidable opponents on the playing field are themselves. This condition that is hugely stigmatised and still controversial, is unexpectedly in the spotlight. It raises several interesting questions. Is ADHD a real condition?  Does it hinder or help sporting success?

 

ADHD is a combination of neurological & behavioral condition, therefore difficult to change just by behavioral therapy or training. It often has a genetic background, or the condition may have been caused by difficult pregnancy or stressful birth.
ADHD or sometimes Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a label applied to a combination of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is quite common that boys are more likely diagnosed then girls.
According to my experience they may also be a mixed types with autistic traits.
Children with ADHD are commonly refereed as hyperactive, fidgety, angry and impulsive. Because of these traits, parent/teachers often recommend to sign them for some sport activity to “Burn the Excessive Energy”.

However, it is not always easy. For children with attention deficit, not all sports are created equal.

They can thrive much better in individual sports (such as swimming, martial arts, diving, tennis, etc.) where they have to follow certain routine and get more individual attention from the coach.
On the other hand they often fail in team sports because of their lack of social awareness, interactions and communication, and low frustration tolerance. They are individualist, very ambitious, high achievers. They must always win and are aggressive, frustrated and unable to accept loss.

If you are a coach of a ADHD child in some type of team sport, you must consider their position in the team. They try to be leaders but usually don’t posses the leadership skills. For example, they may fail communicate, predict the situation, lack  adequate planning and organization skills. You can see it also they fail to to pass the ball trying to score in any situation, even if their co-player is in a better chance. Because of their impulsivity and inability to sustain attention, it may be difficult to incorporate them in the team. They require individual attention and understanding. If they are provoked or humiliated, they may turn they impulsivity outwardly in a rage.

They often hurt others but are not fully aware of that. Many times I hear them saying, “I didn’t mean to hurt him/her and was not aware of doing so.”
If they are punished for such a behavior they often become angry or stop communicating, turning the anger towards the others or themselves.

The inability to focus and sustain attention is caused by inhibitory activity of their brain. Because their brain activity is very idle – something like when we wake up in the morning, the brain is asking to increase the activity, so their are moving their hands and feet to “wake up” the brain to the certain level of functioning.

They may seem they are always disengaged and daydreaming. It takes time for them to shift attention from task to task. You can easily notice that when you call their name, it takes them some time to turn the head or respond to your request.
Some refer that ADHD kids have hyperfocus, but this is difficult to prove. They may be deeply focused on the activity they like and performing well  (often you see it with the computer games) but struggle to focus on learning and every day activities.

They usually have some unique skills which are often overlooked because of their general issues at school (such as sport, music, art, etc.)

The advantageous conditions to bring up in sport is their good reaction time, high energy level, and personal drive to win.

Children with   ADHD aren’t often aware of their condition and think that there isn’t anything “wrong” with them, they lack self-awareness in general. It is recommended not to label these children with diagnose, it significantly affects their self-confidence. It is better to say ” you have problem to focus, or you are a bit fidgety.”

Here are a few tips how to keep ADHD child engaged in sport and  give them an opportunity to thrive:

Modifications in team sports should be designed to keep your child active and engaged in the sport with strategies that minimize downtime and boredom. For example:

— Changing  patterns frequently to keep the child from becoming bored or desensitized.
— Changing field positions as frequently to re-stimulate the child’s attention to the game
— Putting the ADHD child in an active field position as much as possible to keep him or her busily involved in the game.
— Alternate between multiple practice stations to keep kids constantly engaged.
— Giving the ADHD child a coach’s assistant job . Keep the task simple but engaging so he’ll stay out of trouble and build a sense of purpose and self worth along the way.

Many teachers and schools believes that children with ADHD   are only naughty children – with bad parents. The concept of role models can seem an overused cliche but the Olympians with ADHD like Michael Phelps and Ashley McKenzie may really inspire a generation of athletes who once would have been written off.

 

Hope it helps :-)
Zuzana