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  1. #1
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    Default Advice on coaching a soccer team - second grader with autism on the team

    I don't post often but I could truly use some advice. My son is in second grade and plays in an in-town soccer league. Just last week, the league sent out an email stating that there were not enough volunteer coaches and that they may have to eliminate teams if parents didn't start volunteering. Despite that fact that we know nothing about coaching (or playing) soccer, my neighbor and I volunteered to coach since we wanted our sons to play. We received the team roster and set up practices and sent on the game schedule this week.

    My neighbor, the head coach, spoke with one of the parents today and she said that her son has autism and that she had requested a coach experienced with autism. She also said that he was high-functioning. Obviously, the spectrum of autism is very broad and without ever meeting this boy, I have no idea what to expect. If he shows up to the first game this weekend without ever attending a practice - what do we do?

    This situation seems a little off-the-wall. The league never mentioned to us that we had a player with autism and provided no resources for ensuring that his needs are met. The parent specifically requested that special attention be given to her son's needs, which obviously didn't happen. The mom said that she would be at the games but adults are not allowed on the field and only coaches are allowed around the players. I am worried that we will let this little boy down, but also that we will let the rest of the team down at the same time. (I am worried about letting the team down anyway, since we don't even know the rules of the game. But, hey, we're better than nothing I figure.) We have reached out to the league but haven't heard anything back. Does anyone have any advice?
    Boober (10/05) and JuJuBe (5/09)

  2. #2
    oneplustwo is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    This s*cks that you've been put in this position. I was going to say you need to contact the league and get guidance/support from them, but you've tried that and aren't hearing from anyone there. I think you need to tell the parent that you stepped up to coach so that the team wouldn't be disbanded but don't even have coaching training or know the game well, that you have no training for working with kids with autism, and that you've contacted the league for help but aren't getting a response. I'd put it back on the parent to follow up with the league's directors about having her son's needs addressed properly.

    Her requests may also be a little difficult to meet. We're also in New England and our soccer league is completely run by parent volunteers, from the board down to the coaches. The only coaches who might be experienced with working with autistic kids would be parents who have an autistic kid themselves, I'd imagine.
    “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will,
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  3. #3
    petesgirl is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Is there any way she could become a volunteer coach for the team as well so that she can help him out on game days, etc.?
    Mama to :
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    DS2 (Apr 2017)

    "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it."
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  4. #4
    infocrazy is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by petesgirl View Post
    Is there any way she could become a volunteer coach for the team as well so that she can help him out on game days, etc.?


    DS1 had a boy I suspect with autism. His parents were very involved and he took more breaks/left early, etc. I think the mom is probably looking for a coach that is just going to work with them and is going to be understanding/compassionate--aka not all about winning. Although we have been lucky with our coaches, we have seen some VERY competitive coaches/yellers/etc--even for recreation 5 yo! Our leagues are all volunteer as well, so there would be no way to guarantee experience with autism. I would just email the mom and ask her some ideas on what she thinks would work for her child.

    If the league doesn't respond, I would just have the parent help if that would assist the child/you/the team. I doubt the other coaches/parents will care and if they do, tell them to address it with the league. ;-)

    Good luck!
    Jen

    DS in X-Small 7/12, Medium 5/07, and Large 7/05, one DD 3/10, and our DS 4/09 watching over us.

  5. #5
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    hillview is offline Blue Diamond level (20,000+ posts)
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    Wow. Well I agree with pp have her volunteer, ask her for assistance or suggestions, tell her you are not specifically trained, she can pull him if she wants but that you will do your best etc.
    DS #1 Summer 05
    DS #2 Summer 07

  6. #6
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    Thanks for all the responses. It really helps me to hear some ideas. I spoke to our other coach and she said that she suggested that the parent coach and she said that she would be at the games, so that's helpful, but not quite what we had hoped for. The parent was told that we were inexperienced coaches and she was upset, so hopefully she went to the league to help sort this out. We are definitely not yellers and just hope to have fun, so in that sense we are a good fit. My son isn't exactly destined for sports superstardom at any point but that's ok because he has many other interests like Legoes and math :-). I just heard that they are going to skip the first game so at least we have a week before this comes up again!

    Thanks again,
    Sarah
    Boober (10/05) and JuJuBe (5/09)

  7. #7
    hbridge is online now Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Since the parent has been informed that you have no experience with spectrum children, I would simply treat this child as you would any other: lots of compassion and support, reinforce the positive, take him out if he wants out, put him in when it's his turn, don't push too hard but encourage a lot. I'm sure that you will do fine as long as the team is fun and not competitive...

    Have fun, he may turn out to be a great addition to the team

  8. #8
    sariana is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    I have been meaning to reply to this thread but didn't have the time to compose the response I wanted.

    My son has Asperger's, and there are certain things I ask for from his coaches. Every child is different, of course, but maybe some of these things will help you.

    -My son usually cannot listen to verbal instructions and translate them to body movements. He needs not only a demonstration but also often someone to physically move his body the way the coach wants. Check with the parents, of course, but I always give DS's permission to "manhandle" my son, that is to take his leg and move it through the kick, or hold his shoulders and move him around on the field when practicing a play. Processing can be a challenge for some children with autism.

    -Stick to the basics. Complex strategy is pretty rare with 2nd graders anyway, but try to limit this child to a few skills and positions. My DS almost always ends up playing midfielder because that position gets to move around a lot. He does not have to worry so much about what area of the field is his responsibility. He covers left, right, or center, but can move up and down the whole field, almost. Rotating through all the positions may not be the best move for this child.

    -Whenever possible, speak quietly and directly to the child. Children with autism often respond better when the speaker looks directily at them and speaks directly to their face. But also be aware that people with autism often have diffculty looking BACK at the speaker--it's okay if this child keeps his eyes down at your mouth, your chest, or the ground. That does not mean he is not listening.

    -Praise often, and be specific. (That's good for ALL kids.) But don't be fake.

    -Expect that this child may not have good field awareness, and plan accordingly. (Another reason my DS plays midfielder--it's easier for other players to "cover" for him when necessary.)

    Some things my DS's new coach has done very well with him:

    -Encourages him. Shows confidence in him.

    -Puts him in the position that is right in front of the coach's box. This may not apply at your level, but at DS's level, the coach has to stay in a certain small area. He put my DS in the midfield position right in front of him, so left midfielder for the first half, and then right midfielder for the second half, after they changed direction. That way my DS was always close to the coach so he could hear instructions more easily.

    -Recognizes his strengths (and there aren't many--my DS is not athletic at all). In fact, this coach called out every single player for something specific, which I thought was fantastic. So-and-so was great at driving down the field, So-and-So was a great keeper, So-and-So stuck with his man, and so on.

    -During half time, the coach took my DS aside and spoke directly to him, asking him how he was doing and encouraging him to stick it out. He also asked my DS whether he wanted to play 2 more quarters. My DS, who NEVER wants to play more than half a game, stayed in for 3 full quarters, same as everyone else. I was so proud of him, and so happy that his coach encouraged him in that way.

    -Ask the parents for support and/or advice. They know their child best.

    -Be aware that this child may need more reminders than others to stay focused and that it is not the child's fault. His brain is wired differently, and he just needs more support.

    -Many children with autism are little narcissists-teamwork does not come naturally to them. So focusing on team building activities that don't necessarily have anything to do with soccer skills can be very beneficial.

    Again, all children are different. This child's needs may not be similar to my DS's at all. But I hope some of the suggestions help. Like all kids, kids with autism just want to know that you care about them.
    DS '04 "Boogaboo"
    DD '08 "Lilybear"

  9. #9
    JCat is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    I don't know if you're still reading this thread but just in case I'll reply. I too have an ASD son playing soccer. I agree with everything the above poster said.
    Also, things that are obvious to us, will not be obvious to a person with autism. For instance, each week which goal my son is supposed to kick the ball in may change. He has to be told which goal to aim for, or he may run the ball down the feild in the wrong direction and score for the opposing team. (My son did this just last week.) Also, although there is a rule of no parents on the field, if the league doesn't provide help then I say let her be there on the side if she needs to be. Only the worst parents will make an issue of it. There is a LOT to know about dealing with ASD, however mild or severe, and no one will know more than she does about how to best help her child participate.

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