ADHD Parents Together
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He called him uncoachable

What do we do with adhd and sports? Hes a very good athlete but his attitude on sideline gets him in trouble. Hes very, very hard on himself. Do I tell the coaches about his impulsivity? Last night his basketball coach called him out in front of the whole team and said hes uncoachable. The coaches always expect so much from him and when a play doesn't go 'right my son gets p!ssed... the coach gets p!seed and everything falls apart.

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ADHD is actually usually an advantage in sports. While they say about 5% of the population has ADHD, they estimate 20% or more professional athletes have it. Sounds like your son fits that! Does not mean they will be pro, but it can be a huge asset and source of self-esteem. Definitely keep him in it! That said, it is inexcusable that the coach would say that. Totally out of line. Unfortunately, there are always mean coaches or those that do not understand a kid with adhd. Half the battle is finding the good ones. Perhaps asking around for recommendations of kinder coaches? Or call the organization and explain both the disease and ask about a coach that could handle it better? And maybe try a reward system for your child if he can make small improvements in controlling his impulses on the sidelines? Wish there was a quick easy fix, but you are a great mom and he sounds like a great kid! Best of luck!


First let me say that I'm so sorry that happened. Your son isn't uncoachable. I have three boys with ADHD and all three of them play sports. One of them in particular is a good soccer player, but not a good team member. I've been fortunate to have good coaches, but there have still been times when I've had to talk to the coaches about my son's reactions and why he behaves the way that he does. Sometimes we worry that if we tell others that our child has ADHD they will look at our child differently, treat them differently. At the same time, however, when our child is behaving in such a way that people are already experiencing them in a negative light, it's sometimes better to tell it like it is, so our child isn't perceived as behaving "badly." We can use it as an opportunity to educate. Good luck with the coach.

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Hi- I’m sorry that your coach doesn’t understand that every child learns differently no mattered they have adhd or not. My son also plays sports. He is a great soccer player on an invite only league. His coach understands him more now It was also difficult at times trying to get him to understand him but we’ve worked through it. I had a few meetings with him talking about how he learns. He is very visual and needs input from him on a consistent basis. The coach was willing to work with me. And my son and the team are better for it. he needs a coach that builds him up and is constantly coaching him from the sidelines while he is playing. Also when I signed my son up for soccer in the beginning I tried to make it fit my sons adhd schedule as well. Meaning when he is on or off meds what time is better for him to actually learn verses over tired etc...hope this helps😊


Let's face it, coaching at team with an ADHD kid is a much more challenging assignment, especially if you've had no prior experience with it. Heck, as a parent, it's wrenching to watch my son misbehaving during practices, which inevitably are at the end of the day, when medications have worn off, and he's been using up all his executive functioning energy the whole day at school already trying to keep it all together.

Lots of things can go wrong with this formula, especially if you have a highly competitive and/or "old school" coach. And coaches almost never have any special training for dealing with this stuff.

Still, I believe sports can be really helpful for kids with ADHD to develop their athletic skills and other cognitive and social skills, too -- same benefits as for neurotypicals, right?

So I've started telling coaches about our son's ADHD before the first practice, and also volunteering to be an assistant coach on all my kids teams.

I think it helps if you can arrange a face-to-face private meeting or a phone call. I'd start by explaining that my child has ADHD, how long they've had it, etc. Then ask if the coach is familiar with the condition and its symptoms. I then ask if the coach has any experience with ADHD before, or coaching kids with ADHD. If not, I try to help set expectations that kids with ADHD can be distracted during drills, they can forget what they're supposed to be doing or not understand it in the first place, and can sometimes be overwhelmed by all the activity and sounds going on around them. I also add that (in my child's case), he can often appear to not be listening or acting on direct coaching instructions and feedback. And he can sometimes get angry at others, frustrated, and down on himself in more extreme ways than other kids -- it may appear that he's being a poor sport, acting "uncoachable", self-destructing, and so forth. I try to be clear that my son has difficulty acting coachable in the moment, due to competing impulses and desire to escape uncomfortable situations, but that he also has a genuine love of the sport and desire to improve his skill and be a good teammate. I set expectations that this will appear challenging and paradoxical at times, but ask them to see if we can watch what works and what doesn't and make adjustments as we go.

I try to ask the coach what his or her goals are for the team, why they volunteered to coach, what their expectations are of the kids, and how they normally handle things when kids either talk back/don't follow instructions and so forth. This helps me understand where the coach is coming from.

I then explain that I want the coach and the other kids to have a great experience and I'm committing to doing all I can to help to mitigate any adverse impacts on the team and the other kids. I try to set expectations that we will see challenging behaviors and often with my son, but that I'm going to do everything I can to help keep these from hindering the coach and the team from developing and having a great season.

At that point I usually mention my plan for helping out:

1. Being an assistant coach. That means I'll be available on the court/field to help with drills and activities and to help regulate my son's behaviors, in addition to being an extra set of hands to help with other drills. I do set expectations that I may have to jump out of what I'm doing to attend to my son's ADHD behaviors. E.g., remind my son what he's supposed to be doing. I also assure the coach (and follow through) that I'll pull him aside myself if he's being disruptive until he's ready to return to practice. In many cases, I've removed him from practice altogether simply because it was just too much for him on that particular evening.

2. Reinforcing the coach's messages after and beyond practice. Even if my son isn't able to act on it right away, after practice, I write down 3 things my son did well in that practice, and 3 things for him to improve or remember from the session. I also try to practice whatever the skills are with my son on our own time, outside of practice. We review before practices and game time. The coach is usually able to see that my son's getting the messages from the week-to-week improvements they see, even if in the moment, my son is just saying stuff like, "Huh? What? You're not making any sense."

It's helped that my son is reasonably athletic and, come game time, my son is usually out there giving his 100% effort and generally playing at or above average skill level. Also, because the games are scheduled during times when his meds are helping with focus, his game-time concentration is usually very good. We have had some cases of negative response to coaching feedback during the game, but it's been manageable mostly due to proactive expectation setting beforehand. In general, I try to get feedback from the coach before halftime and after the game, and then try to communicate that to my son privately.

Not sure if any of this helps you, especially if you or your spouse don't feel like you're able to volunteer as an assistant (although I think this helps immensely). I wish you the best of luck!


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