My name's Elise, and this is my story.
I'm First Nation, I'm part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I'm proudly autistic, and I also have ADHD and anxiety.
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and what that means is that I can be quite impulsive, which is fun to be around, but doesn't really work for me in, like, environments where I need to be well behaved.
Growing up and hearing "Sit still", "Listen", "Are you listening to me?", "Elise, pay attention", all of that, I really believed that I was the problem.
I have autism. I have ADHD. I have anxiety. I have these labels, and the disability doesn't live in them. The disability exists when the environment, approach and system isn't created with me in mind and my needs get left behind. They're not supported and therefore, my differences is a limitation.
I really love footy, especially because, my ADHD means I need to get out my energy and there's not as much opportunity during the day, with school and work. In everyday life, someone might say, "Oh, you're impulsive” or "You're distracted", but when there's a footy and it's going and you've gotta make decisions and react to it, it's something where my ADHD actually is a benefit.
"Stimming" is a slang for us. It's short for self-stimulation. It is either repetitive words or repetitive movements for self-stimulation. It's the same as what someone else might do, when they're sitting down and they're jiggling their leg. But for us, people with ADHD and autism, we have lower registration in our body, so we need more of the movement, more of that vestibular input to be able to regulate ourselves.
Taking things away from me and trying to get me to sit still and stop doing something stops me from being able to engage and listen. Having something that I can fiddle with, such as, like, a footy, or having the ability to move, or not show my way of listening in the way that you understand or perceive someone as listening, is gonna help me perform at my best.
If there's like, say for example, there's a train in the background and then it goes, I'm thinking about the train. Or when there's people breathing, when the coach is explaining. If they're trying to draw on the whiteboard and showing like a visual, I'm thinking about the squeakiness of the whiteboard.
ADHD also means that I get bored quite easily, which keeps coaches accountable to making their trainings interesting.
When a player is really excited and they may not be doing exactly what you want them to do, that's not a disengaged person. A disengaged person looks like someone who's shut down and not participating and really withdrawn. If someone's- When I'm super, like, hyperactive and it's seen as misbehaviour, I'm still engaged, I just need you to be able to channel it in the right way.
This is my story, but everyone's story will be different. In the next section, you will learn tips of how to support young people with ADHD to participate at footy. For example, you can shorten the time you speak, for us to have more time to play.
What is ADHD?
Some young people with ADHD might get easily distracted part way through a task. It may seem like their mind is elsewhere or that they haven’t heard instructions.
Others with ADHD may display hyperactive and impulsive behaviours. They may prefer to be active rather than still and may run or climb in situations that are unsafe. They may act before they think, like to talk loudly and find it uncomfortable to play quietly, and may need support to wait their turn.
Some young people with ADHD might present with all of these behaviours.
What might this look like on the footy field?
Young people with ADHD attending your session may sometimes look like they are ‘daydreaming’. It may appear that they are not interested in the activity and they may not respond straight away when their name is called.
Others with ADHD who display inattentive behaviours may get distracted part way through an activity you have planned. They may need the instructions to be repeated so they know what to do and may need support to learn new information.
You may also have players with ADHD who are hyperactive or impulsive and may be very active in your session. They may be very energetic - which is great for playing footy! But be mindful that they may jump into activities before all the instructions have been fully explained.
By providing a safe and supportive environment, you can help keep them engaged and safe. With a little planning, you can ensure young people with ADHD have enriching opportunities to make friends, learn new skills and participate in the footy fun.
Strategies and Tips
- Be consistent: Having a consistent routine at each session will help a player with ADHD know what is planned for the day, so even if they have missed instructions, they will know what to do.
- Create a visual schedule: Get creative and make a visual schedule for each session that young people with ADHD can see at all times so they know what’s coming up next; consider rotating activities in a clockwise direction so players always know which activity they are moving to. This can support young people when transitioning from one activity to the next. You could use a whiteboard or flipchart for your schedule.
- Provide the session overview before each session: Consider providing parents/players with the session overview before each session so they are prepared for the activities when they arrive. This could be done via email or through paper copies.
- Ensure you engage: Call the young person’s name before giving instructions. Making eye contact with them, or giving a gentle physical prompt such as softly tapping their arm or hand, can help to make sure they are listening and paying attention.
- Minimise background noise and distractions: You might need to face the group away from distractions behind you (like another game or people) while giving instructions so players can hear and focus on the coach.
- Simplify and repeat: Consider how you communicate. Some players with ADHD might learn best with simple instructions. You also may need to repeat instructions multiple times.
- Check in: Check in with the young person to see if they have understood. This can be done by asking them to tell you in their own words what they are required to do for a particular task or activity. Try to do this in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the player.
- Provide reminders: Give young people a calm reminder or prompt to support them getting back on task if they appear distracted during an activity.
- Provide structure: Use a large clock or timer that each player can see at all times to know when the session or activity will finish.
- Shorten activities: Allow young people to have regular breaks or change the activities more often to keep them engaged and interested.
- Try small groups: Vary the sizes when arranging group activities. Some players might find it easier to work in smaller groups. This can help reduce distractions and make it easier to focus.
- Set clear rules: The rules of your footy play should be covered in the first session of the season. It can help to use pictures as well as words to explain them. Keep the rules in a place that is clearly visible to all your players. It’s also important to review the rules and consequences regularly. You could ask parents to go over these at home with their child to help them remember too.
- Focus on the young person’s interests: Find out what types of activities the young person enjoys or participates well in so that you can use these to keep the session fun and engaging for them. For example, scheduling time for a rewarding activity after a more challenging activity may keep the player engaged.
- Provide feedback after a task: When needed, provide 1-2 coaching tips/any feedback after an activity has finished rather than during, so players can focus on the activity they are completing.
- Check in with the young person and their family: A discreet and brief chat post session with a young person with ADHD and their family can help identify what activities they enjoyed, and whether some activities can be further modified for next time.
Footy stories are a great way to assist young people with ADHD to become familiar with the wonderful world of footy. You can find all of our footy stories on the Parent Information Page.
If you would like further information and resources, you can visit play.afl/coach/. You can also learn more about how to be an inclusive coach by completing the AllPlay Footy Disability Inclusion Coaching Course. This course provides you with tools and resources for creating inclusive environments at footy. Simply create an account or login to your existing profile to enrol in the course!
If you are coaching a young person with ADHD, you may also be interested in reading about:
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.
TYPES OF DISABILITIES
Learn about physical disability and how to adapt your coaching to ensure players with physical disability can join in the fun at footy.
Learn about intellectual disability and how to adapt your coaching to ensure players with intellectual disability can join in the fun at footy.
Learn about Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and how to adapt your coaching to ensure players with DCD can join in the fun at footy