Coaching athletes with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have great rewards; however, knowing the proper approach toward coaching them is the key for both the athlete and the coach to experience these benefits. Dr. Chuang, Owner of the ADD ADHD Treatment Center in Plano, TX, shared with us his insight into coaching athletes with ADHD, and some tips to achieve success!
1. Understand that following instructions is the most difficult task for an athlete with ADHD. Understanding is a great starting point! Coaching athletes with ADHD can be frustrating for the coach who is not aware of how the condition affects a young athlete. On the flipside, coaching athletes with ADHD can be very rewarding, as some of the most successful athletes were also diagnosed with ADHD. The key is understanding how the mind of the ADHD athlete works, and how to best harness their athletic ability. When a coach understands that not paying attention isn’t always their fault, it happens to be how their brain works, the appropriate coaching method begins to yield better results.
2. Change the routine and drills periodically. Presenting something new, or changing up a routine can help keep the athlete with ADHD more engaged. Learning the same exercise or drill through different approaches can be healthy for all athletes, as not all young people grasp concepts in the same manner.
3. Occupy Constantly. Avoid having the players wait in line for drills. This tip may take some planning for coaches, but it can also produce benefits for not only those athletes with ADHD, but the entire team. Applying this tip will keep all of the athletes focused on tasks, and it will utilize every minute of practice. Lines for drills sometimes are unavoidable; however, the time waiting in line can be used for specific activity. Of course, there are necessary times for breaks and rest, but even those moments can remain structured.
4. 1 on 1 Communication works best! Coaches of young athletes don’t always have the luxury of time to coach each athlete individually; however, a quick minute to reemphasize instruction can save the coach a great deal of time in the long run. Once instruction is given to the entire team, a quick face to face with the athlete with ADHD to recap his or her task will go a long way. It’s important not to obviously single out this athlete, but to casually check in with him or her. Because the head coach may not always be able to provide this 1 on 1 with each instruction, assistant coaches or team helpers are great people to help facilitate this, and it will keep the athlete on task.
5. Never Humiliate. As addressed in the first tip, following instructions is the most difficult task for an athlete with ADHD. Humiliating or punishing this athlete will not return positive results. It will not cause the athlete to achieve greater success on the field, or cause the athlete to better follow instructions. The best approach when an athlete with ADHD is struggling to follow instruction and to complete the assigned tasks is again, 1 on 1 communication. Pull the athlete aside and reiterate the instruction. Have him or her repeat the instruction back to you. Point out to them how important their role on the team is, and what an important part they play in the drill. The beautiful thing about an athlete with ADHD is that once he or she finds something they love to do, and want to be a part of, their ability to hyper focus on that sport can produce extraordinary athletes! Gain further insight into the success of athletes with ADHD in our previously published article ADHD and the Benefits of Playing Sports.
Dr. John Chuang
Board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, Dr. John Chuang is the owner of the ADD ADHD Treatment Center in Plano, TX where he serves families in the treatment and management of ADHD. Dr.Chuang earned his medical degree from Ross University in Roseau New York, New York, and did his residency at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. He is a member of Collin-Fannin County Medial Society; Texas Medical Association; Jefferson Physician Group; CHADD – Children / Adults; and ADDA – Attention Deficit Disorder Association