Babies on the Brain

Coaching a child with special needs

Hi :)

I need a little advice and thought this board could be a great resource since many people have young children or might have experience with this.

My husband and I are coaching a youth basketball league this year, ages 7-8. We just had our first practice yesterday and everything was fine except one 7 year old boy has very obvious special needs. He was extremely disrespectful to both of us and disrupting the whole practice. I felt like we spent half of our time trying to keep him under control. At one point he would not give me back a basketball that he was not supposed to have... finally he threw it at me violently and said "Take that Barbie Doll!" This is just one example. He also would just run around aimlessly and never listen to the instructions we were giving. 

I am pretty sure he is in foster care. He is a different race than his guardian and has a different last name. His guardian dropped him off and left, then picked him up without saying a word. He seemed completely aware of the child's difficulty but not very approachable. He doesn't strike me as the type that is easy to talk to about things like this, he just seemed annoyed with the little boy himself. I suppose if I were the parent I would be really upfront about something so obvious. Basketball is not a good choice for a child with attention issues and it is also not a form of cheap child care. I am familiar with the complex challenges children in foster care face as my husband and I have been to courses when considering fostering ourselves. So it's not his behavior that has me worried, but rather how I can best accommodate him to have a successful season.

I need some tips on how to handle this situation. As of now, our plan to to come up with some special roles for him to do while waiting his turn (catching rebounds, cheering for teammates, etc.), and wait until after our first game to see if things need to be addressed further. I am trying to come up with some creative solutions to redirect his extra energy and keep him engaged while sitting on the bench as well. After the first game, if things haven't improved, I would approach the guardians/parents to ask for advice on how we can better coach their child. We have two more practices until our first game in early December. I understand it is not the child's fault, I just want to make sure all of the other 10 children do not get less out of this season because their teammate needs more attention. I also want this to be a great experience for this otherwise delightful little boy!

Any advice or feedback would be VERY appreciated! Thanks in advance!!

Re: Coaching a child with special needs

  • You are making a lot of assumptions.
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    KC_13
  • This is really helpful to me and the kid I'm trying to help, Thanks!
  • Yeah, just because the child is of a different race and doesn't have the same last name doesn't mean he's in foster care. LOL

    And like it or not, parents sometimes use youth activities as a break from their kids, or babysitter.

    Way to be helpful!

    Really, crafty, you are assuming way too much. The first step to helping is not assuming. Some kids go crazy when routine is broken. Give it a few more practices before you continue to assume. It could be his nanny, brother, cousin, etc bringing him to practice.

    Hell, maybe the kid will go back to his real family. Then you both win! :please note the dripping sarcasm:
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  • I wanted to try to keep my initial post short, it would be really hard to fully explain a 2 hour practice. This child was trying to kick other children, yelling, and would not listen. During part of this his parent/guardian was sitting there just watching. At one point my husband asked him to get back in line and he collapsed to the floor and started yelling "this isn't even real" several times in a row. There were also several times I thought he was in danger of hurting himself by monkeying around on the bleachers when we asked him not to. We want to find ways to make this enjoyable for everyone and I also believe is is in all of the childrens' best interest for him to stay as part of the team. 

    I'm sure the foster thing seems like I am assuming, there is more detail there and not just a blind assumption. I was hoping to provide some context for the root of the issues. No matter his home situation, I am wanting to find a way to make him a great member of our team.

    Here is a more direct question:

    Does anyone here have advice on how to best coach a hyperactive or difficult child? 

    How can I bring this up with the parents/guardians without offending? 

    Can you think of anything that might help him listen and sit still better when he will absolutely have to? We have 8 minute quarters and can only sub ever 4 minutes, so I will need to think of something. 

    Thanks!
  • @ ducktale - Thank you!

    Sorry for the comment that concerned you. Once again, I don't want to write a short book on the subject. Children with hyperactivity and attention issues tend to fair much better in individual sports - swimming, martial arts, and gymnastics are much better choices. This is a pretty good article on the subject. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5708.html
    I am used to coaching swimming, not basketball. This is only my second time with basketball. I did not mean to seem we do not want him on our team. On the contrary, he has a lot of potential with the right coaching! My husband and I are very patient and warm, so I am not so concerned with our approach. I just wanted to see if anyone has feedback on actual things we can incorporate to help him succeed.

    Of course I would never ask about his living arrangements! I was going to go ahead and email them to ask for suggestions but I think I will wait and try a few things myself and see how things shape up after the first game. Thanks!
  • I wouldn't be a good coach because I have zero athleticism in my body BUT, I wouldn't stress so much over talking to the guardians (or whoever the hell they are). Just bring it up one day. Explain the challenges you're facing with this child and see what happens. Maybe it will go smoother than you are imagining.

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  • @nicb13 - Thank you, this is helpful! I think you are right... I am just over thinking it. I just care a lot about making sure this child has a positive experience and we are able to do our job as coaches. It will all work out, I'm sure.
    Nicb13
  • Hi, I know you want to help but I agree that there are a lot of assumptions. Anyway, as a former foster mom, an adoptive mom of a "disruptive" and "hyperactive" child, and a believer in positive discipline techniques, I think you need to "connect before you correct".

    If this kid is a foster child, he has probably faced a lot of hardship lately. He may be testing to see what will happen. Or he may be trying new meds (often they start over with brand new doctors) and it may be affecting him adversely. Make sure your reaction to him is positive.

    I agree with pp to see if you can get another volunteer to work with him, or even one if the kids who is maybe a little older and knows the sport well. I would give him hand fidgits for the bench or give him Other ways to cope, like walking the line or getting water for everyone. Basketball is a GREAT activity for a kid who has a lot of energy and a short attention span. Just because it's difficult for you doesn't mean it's not good for him.
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  • You need to be more direct.  If this child is acting out, it is unlikely that this is the only place it happens.  Simply have a conversation with the adult giving specific example of 2-3 behaviors and asking what works best at home.  Don't make it a big deal, and don't make the list too long.  Focus on one short term goal at a time.
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  • @fredalina - thank you this is really helpful! What are "hand fidgets" if you don't mind?

    I am assuming a lot, I realize. I also can't fully sum up the experience I have had with other children and the issues that arose during those two hours in a post. All I am trying to do is come up with solutions to implement in the next practice instead of waiting several practices to identify the problem. 

    Basketball is great for kids with lots of energy, but out of every sport it probably takes the most attention. You have to be able to know where you need to be at all times during a fast paced game. This is really irrelevant anyways, he is signed up and he will be on our team! :)
  • Ahha! Google search. Thanks for the tip, I'm going to get something like this to throw in my gym bag!

  • @ ducktale - Thank you!

    Sorry for the comment that concerned you. Once again, I don't want to write a short book on the subject. Children with hyperactivity and attention issues tend to fair much better in individual sports - swimming, martial arts, and gymnastics are much better choices. This is a pretty good article on the subject. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5708.html
    I am used to coaching swimming, not basketball. This is only my second time with basketball. I did not mean to seem we do not want him on our team. On the contrary, he has a lot of potential with the right coaching! My husband and I are very patient and warm, so I am not so concerned with our approach. I just wanted to see if anyone has feedback on actual things we can incorporate to help him succeed.

    Of course I would never ask about his living arrangements! I was going to go ahead and email them to ask for suggestions but I think I will wait and try a few things myself and see how things shape up after the first game. Thanks!

    I'm so glad you can diagnose ADHD in a school age child by seeing them one time. You should go work for my kids neurologists office--I'm sure they'd appreciate your expertise.
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  • I don't even understand some of the women on these boards.

    I could post a question asking for opinions on what foods are best to donate to needy families during the holidays and someone would jump on me about it.

    I'm not a medical professional. I did not diagnose him. I have coached many children - at least a hundred at this point. I have dealt with difficult children. This child is not just difficult, he was uncontrollable and possibly even dangerous. We were patient and kind with him, with several parents coming up to us after the practice with encouraging words. A coach from another team told me after practice I should ask to have him removed from our rosters but I am not willing to do that, he needs a chance to gain the benefits from team sports. I am genuinely trying to gain insight into what I might be able to do at the next practice (instead of waiting several weeks before trying something new) to help him. 

    For anyone who is interested, the volunteer coordinator called me last night to ask about our first practice and specifically asked about this child because he knew he was on our roster and apparently was pulled from a soccer team last year. He IS in foster care and has developmental challenges. I didn't ask, this is just what I was told yesterday.

    I am going to come up with some more active drills, give him more roles to play (catching rebounds, for example), and try to connect with him. We are also letting the kids come up and meet us if they can during the holiday weeks we don't have practice to work on whatever they need. I am going to get some of the hand fidgets that were mentioned here. 

    To everyone who was really helpful, I really appreciate it! We will figure this out and I'm sure it will be fine. I hope if I ever have children in sports their coaches care a bit about their individual development like I am trying to do. 
  • OP - I dislike so much of your original post but want to help for the sake of the child. Here is the guide we use with Special Olympics. Maybe you will find some useful drills and learning tools (for you and your husband).
    DucktaleTheCraftyKoalaKC_13
  • softservecitysoftservecity
    500 Comments 250 Love Its First Answer Name Dropper
    member
    edited November 2013
    I don't even understand some of the women on these boards.

    I could post a question asking for opinions on what foods are best to donate to needy families during the holidays and someone would jump on me about it.

    I'm not a medical professional. I did not diagnose him. I have coached many children - at least a hundred at this point. I have dealt with difficult children. This child is not just difficult, he was uncontrollable and possibly even dangerous. We were patient and kind with him, with several parents coming up to us after the practice with encouraging words. A coach from another team told me after practice I should ask to have him removed from our rosters but I am not willing to do that, he needs a chance to gain the benefits from team sports. I am genuinely trying to gain insight into what I might be able to do at the next practice (instead of waiting several weeks before trying something new) to help him. 

    For anyone who is interested, the volunteer coordinator called me last night to ask about our first practice and specifically asked about this child because he knew he was on our roster and apparently was pulled from a soccer team last year. He IS in foster care and has developmental challenges. I didn't ask, this is just what I was told yesterday.

    I am going to come up with some more active drills, give him more roles to play (catching rebounds, for example), and try to connect with him. We are also letting the kids come up and meet us if they can during the holiday weeks we don't have practice to work on whatever they need. I am going to get some of the hand fidgets that were mentioned here. 

    To everyone who was really helpful, I really appreciate it! We will figure this out and I'm sure it will be fine. I hope if I ever have children in sports their coaches care a bit about their individual development like I am trying to do. 

    I would suggest researching this problem and talking with others who've worked with kids with similar problems. I have worked exclusively with children of all abilities for the last 10 years and believe that anyone who works with kids everyday can quickly determine the ones that are going to struggle or have attention or hyperactivity issues. Trust your instincts! The things that have worked best for me all involve not going it alone. Ask for help. Even ask for help from the child. Be honest and let them know what your concerns are and see if y'all can make a plan. Good luck!
  • It's the way you word it. This board is very supportive.
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    fredalinaClrkKntismyAEKimbus22
  • @mysterious_wife - you're right and I need to be much better about wording. I tend to put unnecessary details or loaded words without realizing it because I am mostly preoccupied while posting. I swear, I am not nearly as controversial IRL. My initial question should have been about 2 sentences asking for suggestions. I'll be more careful going forward. Thanks!


    fredalina
  • Maybe you could ask for some tips from the moms on the Special Needs board. I am sure they would appreciate your willingness to try and work with a challenging child.
    Small Smile!
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  • @ ducktale - Thank you!

    Sorry for the comment that concerned you. Once again, I don't want to write a short book on the subject. Children with hyperactivity and attention issues tend to fair much better in individual sports - swimming, martial arts, and gymnastics are much better choices. This is a pretty good article on the subject. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5708.html
    I am used to coaching swimming, not basketball. This is only my second time with basketball. I did not mean to seem we do not want him on our team. On the contrary, he has a lot of potential with the right coaching! My husband and I are very patient and warm, so I am not so concerned with our approach. I just wanted to see if anyone has feedback on actual things we can incorporate to help him succeed.

    Of course I would never ask about his living arrangements! I was going to go ahead and email them to ask for suggestions but I think I will wait and try a few things myself and see how things shape up after the first game. Thanks!

    I'm so glad you can diagnose ADHD in a school age child by seeing them one time. You should go work for my kids neurologists office--I'm sure they'd appreciate your expertise.
    @KC_13  Was that really needed? Way to encourage someone who is willing to work with a child who is different. (i.e. yours and mine)
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  • @ ducktale - Thank you!

    Sorry for the comment that concerned you. Once again, I don't want to write a short book on the subject. Children with hyperactivity and attention issues tend to fair much better in individual sports - swimming, martial arts, and gymnastics are much better choices. This is a pretty good article on the subject. http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5708.html
    I am used to coaching swimming, not basketball. This is only my second time with basketball. I did not mean to seem we do not want him on our team. On the contrary, he has a lot of potential with the right coaching! My husband and I are very patient and warm, so I am not so concerned with our approach. I just wanted to see if anyone has feedback on actual things we can incorporate to help him succeed.

    Of course I would never ask about his living arrangements! I was going to go ahead and email them to ask for suggestions but I think I will wait and try a few things myself and see how things shape up after the first game. Thanks!

    I'm so glad you can diagnose ADHD in a school age child by seeing them one time. You should go work for my kids neurologists office--I'm sure they'd appreciate your expertise.
    @KC_13  Was that really needed? Way to encourage someone who is willing to work with a child who is different. (i.e. yours and mine)

    She said this kid doesn't belong playing basketball because kids with ADHD do better in individual sports when she doesn't even know if the child actually has ADHD. People placing labels on kids based on one encounter really, really rubs me the wrong way.
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    fredalina
  • @KC_13.   Not once did she say ADHD. 

    You "diagnosed" him and put that label on the child.

    She probably googled children with attention problems and got the Additude article.
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  • KC_13KC_13
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    edited November 2013
    @KC_13.   Not once did she say ADHD. 

    You "diagnosed" him and put that label on the child.

    She probably googled children with attention problems and got the Additude article.

    Eh, she said basketball is not fitting for a kid like him then linked an article from an ADHD article supporting what she said. She might have not flat out said ADHD but she most certainly inferred it between that link, the special needs and attention issues comments.
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    fredalinaMysterious_wife
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