Accessible Coaching: How to adapt your coaching to be more inclusive
As a coach, you may encounter working with an athlete with a disability, visible or non-visible. Many athletes encounter barriers to participation in sport that can be removed or reduced with education, communication and the action of making (even small) changes to your team and/or club.
In some instances, coaches may not be aware that an athlete has a disability, particularly if the athlete has an ‘invisible’ impairment or disability. It is important, as coaches, to develop rapport and communication with all athletes – this creates an open environment where athletes will feel comfortable communicating any non-visible disabilities they may have.
Here are some classifications of impairments and disabilities:
• Spinal cord injury
• Blind/vision impaired
• Deaf/hearing impaired
Athletes with disabilities in sport are categorised into six barrier groups: architectural, physical, policy/practice, attitudinal, information/communication and technological. As a coach, understanding which category an athlete with a disability falls into will help you adapt your approach accordingly.
Some general tips to create an inclusive environment:
- Don’t rely on assumptions and expectations – when unsure, ask questions to ensure safety and quality experiences
- If you find yourself working outside your area of expertise and comfort - ask questions, whether it be of participants or of your network
- Don't bring it upon yourself to reinvent the wheel
- Trust yourself. There are multiple things at play, not just disability. You are the expert in your sport/coaching
- Be accommodating – work with the athlete and share expertise
- Be technically adaptable – do you need to adjust your technical delivery?
- Be sincere, genuine – it’s the intention that really counts
A great tip to remember: you are a qualified coach, this is sport and these are all athletes. Set the tone of your sport environment as soon as possible and be a leader in inclusion for your athletes.