ADHD is hard. Being in a family with ADHD family members is hard! Being limited due to ADHD is heart breaking. Here is valuable ADHD information for the coach that might give them a little more insight. ADHD does not have to hold someone back. Look at Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jordan. There are likely many more than we are aware of.
Why do kids with ADHD get put into sports
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One of Biggs coaches gave her the book “Nadia, the girl who couldn’t sit still.” I think its common for parents of ADHD children to utilize sports to “burn off energy.” This article discusses items specific to ADHD beyond the normal mental and physical health benefit of physical activity. Gymnastics is the perfect challenge to develop “new neural pathways.” Exercise is also a natural boost to dopamine, which is lacking with ADHD.
How to harness the hyper focus
A common misconception about ADHD is that they cannot focus. Quite the contrary, someone with ADHD can hyper focus for hours on something stimulating and enjoyable to the point to neglecting basic needs like eating. The challenge is their ability to direct their focus to what they “should” be doing.
A young, but very gifted coach was a natural at harnessing and directing this focus in Little Bit at a very young age. She was able to give short reminders through a lesson of the reward they had picked for the day. Even at 4 years old, brief reminders when she got off task were usually all she needed. This could be as simple as 2 minutes to jump into the pit at the end of class.
As she ages, she often has lots of stories to tell. Her short term goal may be focus now, to have 2 minutes to tell your story to the coach at the end of class. Sugary treats often are a trigger for a dopamine rush then subsequent crash. In our case, healthy rewards work much better. Programming the brain to respond to healthy rewards at a young age will benefit her in the long run. Successes at small, attainable goals can sometimes fill this purpose.
Short term goals
For someone with ADHD, long term goals can be overwhelming. With someone as young as Little Bit, short goals that can be accomplished within the day, or even hour are important. Goals to maintain focus and effort through a practice may be the promise of a few minutes of fun at the end of practice. The key is to be consistent and make sure not to reward undesirable behavior. If an anticipated reward is lost, make sure the child understands what behavior warrants a reward.
As they age, it may be possible to sustain effort longer depending on the goal. For example, one of Bigg’s teammates demonstrated this perfectly. Coaches had decided to have her repeat a level primarily due to lack of focus. The realization set in that some teammates would be moving on without her. Only then she was able to fine tune her focus with the goal to achieve all of the necessary goals in time to advance to the next level within the season. She was able to achieve in a short time new skills that take many athletes a year of practice to master. However, once the goal was achieved, focus declined without a new short term goal.
Listening might look different
Society has come a long way in recognizing that the ADHD needs stimulation. Tools are being implemented in classrooms. Exercise balls may replace chairs to allow some movement and required focus to maintain balance. Fidget spinners and pop it’s have become popular. Even my husband appreciates his rings designed for fidgeting. For the ADHD brain, read here how these tools help improve focus.
Another coach told my husband that she knew Little Bit was listening when she was standing there swinging her arms back and forth. If she was still, her mind was likely elsewhere. We were so blessed with an early coach that understood ADHD well due to her own/child’s diagnosis.
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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.