Over the past number of years that I have been coaching kids classes or working with the youth athlete, I have had at least one in the group that has or is on medication for, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There has been a noticeable increase in the number of kids who have ADHD; though, I’m not sure if this is due to better diagnoses or some-other reason making this more common, maybe this will be a post for another day.
Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD in children can be one of or all of the following:
Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, or during other activities.
Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations or lengthy reading.
Not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily side-tracked.
Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as what to do in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order or having messy work.
Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Fidget and squirm in their seats
Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or the office
Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or often feel restless.
Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”
Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in a conversation
Have trouble waiting for his or her turn
Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities.
It is also worth to note that people with ADHD can suffer from depression and anxiety. (Nimh.nih.gov, 2019)
With the main medication used to treat ADHD being a stimulant (see coaching below), it was suggested that training might have a positive effect on the symptoms. Studies have shown that training can have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. (Smith et al., 2011)
The studies did show that the training had to be moderate to high intensity to have the best results. (Meßler, Holmberg and Sperlich, 2016)
Reading the list above, I’m sure you will see the challenge you will have as a coach having a child in your group that has ADHD. Firstly as a coach you should be aware if they are on medication and what the side effects maybe. Most commonly they are treated with a stimulant. This can lead to weight-loss, interrupted sleep and crankiness. If a stimulant doesn’t work or side effects are too much then they could be given a none stimulant. Side effects can be nausea, dry mouth, fatigue and suicidal thoughts. (Nimh.nih.gov, 2019)
Most athletes with ADHD that have dropped out of sport report that it was due to the coach. They felt that the coach talked to them like they were intentionally being disruptive or that the coach didn’t explain the task simple enough for them to grasp. (Lee, Dunn and Holt, 2014).
When coaches were interviewed on dealing with ADHD athletes it was the more experienced coaches that had a better understanding of the complexities of dealing with this athlete. This would suggest that if you’re a novice coach and you have an athlete with ADHD then maybe it would be good to ask for mentorship or advice from a coach with more experience. (Wolfe and Madden, 2016).
Some points to help with coaching an athlete with ADHD;
- Be patient, they wont always get what you mean first time around.
- Use different cues or instructions to explain what you want them to do.
- Don’t make the athlete feel they are not part of the group
- Goal setting, setting small goals for the athlete to attain during the class.
- Positive behavioural reinforcements, this could be for attendance, getting an exercise correct or a good attitude.
- Consistency and a controlled environment. Try not to have things that can cause distraction.
- Don’t forget the other athletes. Make sure they get you attention and aren’t disrupted during the session. You have also got to be sure they aren’t making the ADHD athlete feel out of place or separate from the group.
The biggest takeaway has to be, be patient and consistent and this will be a good start to help you as a coach to deal challenges you may face dealing with an ADHD athlete. (Wolfe and Madden, 2016).
Lee, H., Dunn, J. and Holt, N. (2014). Youth Sport Experiences of Individuals With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 31(4), pp.343-361.
Meßler, C., Holmberg, H. and Sperlich, B. (2016). Multimodal Therapy Involving High-Intensity Interval Training Improves the Physical Fitness, Motor Skills, Social Behavior, and Quality of Life of Boys With ADHD: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 22(8), pp.806-812.
Nimh.nih.gov. (2019). NIMH » Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].
Smith, A., Hoza, B., Linnea, K., McQuade, J., Tomb, M., Vaughn, A., Shoulberg, E. and Hook, H. (2011). Pilot Physical Activity Intervention Reduces Severity of ADHD Symptoms in Young Children. Journal of Attention Disorders, 17(1), pp.70-82.
Verret, C., Guay, M., Berthiaume, C., Gardiner, P. and Béliveau, L. (2010). A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior and Cognitive Functions in Children With ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(1), pp.71-80.
WebMD. (2019). ADHD Medications & Side Effects. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-medication-chart#2 [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].
Wolfe, E. and Madden, K. (2016). Evidence-Based Considerations and Recommendations for Athletic Trainers Caring for Patients With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Athletic Training, 51(10), pp.813-820.