The coach and athlete of today now have a wealth of information at their fingertips to support their goal of developing athletic ability. This information may be derived from academic journals or coffee -table magazines, perhaps it is gleaned from internet chatlines or from credible sources organizations like NCPAD, but wherever it comes from sorting the kernel from the chafe requires skill and pragmatism. The phrase “A little knowledge could be a dangerous thing” is a necessary and cautionary reminder that not every piece of coaching wisdom is well conceived or suitable for your special needs athlete. There is certainly a danger in over-analyzing every single possible risk, benefit, sports tactic, counter tactic, etc, and you may find your head is whirring with contradictory ideas; sports psychologists might suggest that you are in a state of “analysis – paralysis.”
Posts Tagged 'coach'
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog titled “Teaching sports to special needs athletes: A tripod of influences”. In that blog I discussed how pedagogy (how you teach), content (what you teach) and relationships all contribute to the effectiveness of the athlete’s participation and enjoyment of sports. Positive athlete –coach relationships are particularly important for special needs athletes. Coaches are in a powerful position to role model, mentor and advocate for athletes for whom the social aspects of sports present challenges. Research has shown that peer culture (especially in sports), when role modeled by a coach that values diversity, can support effective and authentic inclusion. The consequence is that athletes with challenges feel valued and accepted by teammates. Sadly, this is not the universal experience of some special needs athletes. Some of these athletes participate in “a culture of exclusion which posits that isolating and marginalizing someone is appropriate, acceptable and sometimes even laudatory” (Sapon-Shevin, 2003).
The exponential growth of Facebook, and other forms of social media, have powerfully demonstrated the importance we human beings place on feeling connected to others. Successful participation in this interconnected world now requires us to be capable of swift and articulate interactions with others. The rewards for competent practitioners of these social skills are considerable: They can influence social status and elevate the individual’s sense of well-being.
Parents of special needs athletes, deciding that now is the time for their child to enjoy the benefits of school or community sports, will seek ways to find the right environment for their child. They will look for programs that encourage inclusion, promote their child’s sports development and have coaches that understand that their child may learn, think or behave in different ways. My recent experience attempting to enroll my son in community soccer shows that unfortunately things do not always follow this script.
Are you a teacher, an educator or a coach of sports? Is there any difference? The distinctions between the three are not necessarily obvious. Not all coaches are good teachers. They may have an excellent knowledge of the sport, understand its skills and tactics, and yet be very poor at sharing their expertise with their athletes. Likewise, not all teachers are good sports coaches; they may have a sound grasp of pedagogy (how an activity can best be delivered) but lack the insight and experience a coach might bring to the sport.
In soccer it is a convention that you kick the ball out of bounds if an opponent has become injured; thus you stop the play. When play resumes, the attacking team is expected to give the ball to the defending team as a mark of good sportsmanship. In ice hockey you must not “spray” the goalkeeper with ice using your ice skates; if you do, you will likely attract the anger of the goalkeeper’s teammates. In a track running race, it is expected that you are two strides in front of a rival before you move directly in front of them (i.e. you are not allowed to interrupt the stride of your opponent).
What elements should be included in an exercise program? The question seems straight forward enough – but the answers that I have heard in my 30 years of teaching and coaching range range from the helpful to the bizarre. I have benefitted from a running program carefully designed to develop speed, strength and flexibility. But I was also once advised to fill a backpack with heavy rocks and sprint down hill so as to “stress my bones.” That advice cast a new application for the theatrical phrase: “Break a leg!”
In last week’s blog I discussed to importance of adapting an exercise program to the unique needs of the athlete. Today, I would like to expand on that theme. Let’s assume that a special needs athlete asks you to coach them. How would you go about designing an exercise program that is challenging and yet respectful of their capabilities?
Last week I wrote a blog about the application of the principles of “The Tripod Project”. This is something that identified three themes that supported the development of an athlete (or student): the exercise program’s “content”, the skill of the coach / teacher in delivering the content (pedagogy), and the importance of the athlete – coach relationship. Over the next weeks I will post blogs on each of these themes starting today with “content”.