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AFL Disability coach womens are playing.

  • Coaches should say hello and welcome a young person in a wheelchair in the same way they would a young person who doesn’t use a wheelchair. Say ‘Hi’ and use the young person’s name.
  • Also think about your body language and facial expression. Be open and friendly – use open hands, wave hello and smile.
  • Treat all players equally and don’t assume that anyone requires modifications.
  • When talking with a young person in a wheelchair, try to come down to the young person’s level and make eye contact by kneeling or sitting on a bench.
  • Think of a young person’s wheelchair as part of their personal space. This means it’s respectful not to touch or lean on the chair without asking or being invited.
  • Say ‘Hi’ and use the young person’s name. Also think about your body language and facial expression. Be open and friendly – use open hands, wave hello and smile.
  • When saying hello to a young person who is blind or has low vision, always tell the player your name when you start talking with them, even if you have met them many times before.
  • Some young people may use computerised systems, sign language, gestures, eye movements, symbols or pictures to communicate. If you’re unsure, ask the young person or their parent about how best to communicate with the young person.
  • Learn about the young person’s strengths, abilities and interests, and avoid making assumptions about the challenges the young person may have.
  • Modify activities so that all young people can have a go. Run activities that can be adapted and have different levels of difficulty. The CHANGE IT principles can help coaches think of ways to modify an activity to meet the individual needs of a young person.
  • It may be helpful to use small groups. Matching young people of the same skill level in small groups can help young people feel more at ease and confident in their abilities, and may help cater activities to different skill levels within a larger group.
  • Have a chat with the parents and be specific. Sometimes, they just need someone to ask them for their support (eg. “Would it be possible for you to help with a short activity with a small group today?”).
  • Give parents a role they can play (eg. practising a drill with their child, umpiring, etc.).
  • Emphasise the benefits of getting involved (eg. taking part may help reassure their child).
  • If coaches have a concern about a young person’s behaviour because it may put the young person or other young people at risk of harm, this should be discussed with the parent in a non-judgemental, open, and collaborative way.
  • The goal of the discussion should be to understand the behaviour and its purpose. For example, the young person might be trying to communicate that something is making them uncomfortable or that they are feeling tired.
  • Having a conversation with parents early to reduce the chances of the behaviour becoming more pronounced over time is a good idea.
  • Parents know their child best and might be able to assist in understanding and recognising triggers and behaviours. The family might be able to help develop strategies that will support the young person to communicate what they are thinking and feeling, and to get them more involved in a positive way. Involving parents, siblings or buddies can be a good way to help involve the young person in the activities, but make sure you check if this is okay with the player.
  • Some young people can be very social and friendly. It can be helpful to be clear about what is appropriate when talking and interacting with others. For example, tell players that it is more appropriate to give a high-five than a hug at footy.

Recommended reading

We have also put together strategies for five scenarios in which you might like to provide extra support during your sessions. Refer to this page for more information about supporting all young people to play footy.

AllPlay Footy is a joint initiative by Monash University and the AFL. AllPlay Footy was founded at Deakin University in 2015 and has been part of Monash Education since 2021. The AllPlay Footy content and resources presented here have been developed with people with lived experience of disability, consultants from National Sporting Organisations for People with Disability, psychologists and researchers, and are brought to you with funding from a Department of Social Services Information, Linkages and Capacity Building: Social and Community Participation Stream (2020-2024) grant. We aim to use language that is respectful to everyone.


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