Positive Coaching Alliance

Children with ADHD and Rugby

PCA lists 10 best sports for ADHD children, but no rugby?

I think we can do better, rugby is great sport for children diagnosed with ADHD! The positive coaching alliance have great articles, excellent podcast and interesting content in their newsletter. This is from the last one, it is about players with ADHD. Great, except the fact that rugby is not on the list!

Now I have had some interesting experiences with players diagnosed with this disorder so was immediately interested when they claimed to have a parents and experts set-up list of 10 recommended sports that work particularly well for ADHD kids:

1) Swimming – Helps to give ADHD children structure and guidance.
2) Martial Arts- Teaches respect and discipline.
3) Tennis – Provides individualistic competition.
4) Gymnastics – Increases focus and overall awareness.
5) Wrestling – A way to positively channel emotions.
6) Soccer – Gives kids with ADHD a sense of camaraderie.
7) Horseback Riding – Teaches kids to mirror their horse’s behaviour changes.
8) Track and Cross Country – Teaches discipline and pacing.
9) Archery – Teaches responsibility and intense focus.
10) Baseball – Teaches patience and sportsmanship.

No Rugby?

What is ADHD anyway?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, or excessive activity and impulsivity, which are otherwise not appropriate for a person’s age. Some individuals with ADHD also display difficulty regulating emotions or problems with executive function.

These children have so much input they cannot handle all the information.

What is it not?

It is not some sort of battery, an unlimited amount of energy. Parents sometimes think sports are good for their kids because this tires them out, but it is more than that: we can recognise the effects of the above characteristics in sports to kick in.

Rugby and ADHD

Actually the Top 10 list of the PCA gives us lots of pointers for us coaches. Let us have a look and reflect….

  • Give ADHD children structure and guidance: sure, we can have structures:  in Open Play we have roles of the Ball Carrier and those players in immediate support, we have lots of structures in Restarts;
  • Teach respect and discipline: once we have structures in place, we need to be disciplined in executing. But also with the physical aspect in rugby, tensions can go up sometimes and we have to show character and sportsmanship;
  • Provides individualistic competition: ehhh…. measure ourselves against performance standards? Can we make this specific in a coaching teams? I guess so;
  • Increases focus and overall awareness: Goalkicking? Line-Out throw? Should these tasks be assigned to ADHD players? Not sure I understand;
  • Wrestling & positively channel emotions: scrum, ruck and maul surely!
  • Give kids with ADHD a sense of camaraderie: no comment needed;
  • Teach kids to mirror their horse’s behaviour changes: ….
  • Teach discipline and pacing: suppose this is about execution and game management;
  • Teach responsibility and intense focus: ….
  • Teach patience and sportsmanship: is this about sitting in the dug-out waiting for when you are up, waiting in the outfield? In rugby we actually have very little time with ball in hand too!

There you go, managed to give a rugby spin on most of the 10!

My experiences

Without giving ADHD much thought I was surprised when the first parents came to me and said things like: “since my son is in your team he is doing much better at school, they seem to deal much better with their ADHD”. What I was doing: SAQ for better running, clear structures in Open Play, I talked about roles and responsibilities. Talk about Self and Team.

After this I tried not to worry too much on ADHD players getting distracted, in fact I used them as a “barometer”, when they started to look distracted I needed to stop talking.

I met Alan Pearson and learned more about SAQ- innervation, mobilising the nervous system, educated myself on the subject, learned more about communicating more effective, and also became more individual with the ADHD players.

A lot is happening in a game situation, with a bit more structure players recognise patterns and can decide on actions. For example, recognise an overlap and know how to work this into a 2v1. So from a lot of “signal noise” we learn our players to see for visual clues and act upon them. Better than Ritalin?

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Disclaimer: this is how I dealt with players with ADHD, I am just a grassroots rugbycoach who shares his opinion…

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