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DEVELOPMENTAL COORDINATION DISORDER

What is Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)?

Young people with DCD often need support to undertake certain movements. This can include everyday tasks, such as brushing their teeth, using knives and forks, handwriting and dressing themselves.
They may be less confident about playing with other young people, particularly when the activities involve movement, like playing footy. This can mean that young people with DCD exclude themselves from playing with others, or stand to the side.
Every young person with DCD is unique. For example, DCD may affect some young people’s speech. Some young people may need support coordinating their movements when they walk, and may bump into things or trip over. Others may need support to use their hands and may drop things. Regardless, the need to be included and given a chance to succeed in physical activities are the most important factors to consider when working with young people with DCD.
By providing a safe and supportive environment, you can help keep young people with DCD engaged and safe. With a little planning, you can ensure they have enriching opportunities to make friends, learn new skills and participate in the footy fun.

What might this look like on the footy field?

Players with DCD may need support with marking the football, kicking, running and playing.
As players with DCD get older, they may become more aware of their motor abilities, and may lose confidence. They may withdraw from footy by either standing to the side, or not playing footy at all.

Strategies and tips

Before the session

  • Ask the young person what they want to be able to do: For example, they may want to mark the footy. Plan how they might be able to do this, including talking about techniques and strategies that they might use. Let them practise the skill. Give the player a chance to check how they went and evaluate their performance. A player’s plan can then change as they try to reach their goals.
  • If more support is needed, work with players to modify their goal, as necessary, so that they can become achievable. For example, they may be able to tap the ball from the air down to the ground where they can then pick it up, rather than mark the footy.

During the session

Give young people a chance to do well

  • Simplify training drills: Simplify the tasks and activities where necessary. This can give players with DCD a chance to increase their footy skills and confidence, which can increase their enjoyment.
  • Give more time: Slowing activities down and simplifying instructions can be a useful way of helping players succeed. For example, encourage walking rather than running the first time an activity is played to help slow it down. Some players might need more time to respond verbally.
  • Give more practise: Use repetition when learning skills. Some players might need extra practise. Allow them to do more repetitions if needed and move to new, more complex skills once the player has mastered the previous skill.
  • Match groups by skill level: Matching players of the same skill level in small groups for activities may help young people feel more at ease and confident in their abilities. Assign groups yourself. This will reduce the chance of someone feeling excluded.


Keep young people with DCD active and included

  • Offer all roles. There are many roles on the footy field. Young people with DCD could umpire or throw the ball back in to stay involved and active if you notice them withdrawing, or not wanting to play. This may help their confidence.

After the session

  • Check in with the young person and their family: A discreet and brief chat post session with a young person with DCD and their family can help identify what activities they enjoyed, and whether some activities can be further modified for next time.

Recommended reading

If you are coaching a young person with DCD, you may also be interested in reading about:

Motivation >

Behaviour >

Social skills >

Additional resources

Footy stories. Footy stories are a great way to assist young people with anxiety to become familiar with the wonderful world of footy. You can find all of our footy stories on the Parent Information Page.
Further training. 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 Online Coaching Modules in Inclusion. This course provides you with tools and resources for creating inclusive environments at 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 (2020-2021) grant. We aim to use language that is respectful to everyone.

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