Focus on the Outcome

Where an athlete has a physical disability, the coach may feel unsure how to instruct the athlete. For example, how would you teach a player who has no hands to catch the ball and then pass the ball?

Sometimes it will be effective to instruct the athlete what you want done and then let them explore how to do it. In the example above, the athlete may be able to catch the ball with their arms (or even stop it with their chest) and then kick it to the next person.

Whilst this is not permissible in basketball (a player cannot deliberately kick the ball), it could be effective in letting an activity continue and the player being able to engage in the activity. They
may also be able to find another way to “throw” the ball – but if they are not given the chance to practice, they are unlikely tofindawaytodoit.

Ask What Changes are Needed?

Whenever a coach has an athlete with a disability in their team, they should speak with the parents about any changes or modifications that may be necessary to include the child. The parents will often be able to give the coach practical advice on how to best work with the player.

Changing how you coach

To include a player with a disability may require a coach to make some changes in their coaching, however these are no different to changes they may need to make for any of their athletes.

In coaching an athlete with a hearing impairment, the coach may provide written instructions or explanations. They may need to make sure that
they are facing the player when they speak and they may need to establish a training rule that when they stop an activity, other players are responsible for ensuring that the athlete with a hearing impairment also knows that it has been stopped. These changes are not difficult.

An athlete with an intellectual disability may need the opportunity for physical demonstration – “walking them through” movements on the court, showing them where to put their feet or hands. Again, these are not difficult changes and are the same as the coach may need to do for an athlete without a disability.

Assume THAT they can, not that they can’t

Often the biggest barrier to participation in sport by a person with a disability
is the perception that they will not be able to participate or that they will not be able to participate at all alongside athletes without that disability.

Perhaps the most powerful thing that a coach can do is to adopt an attitude that they can include the athlete rather than assuming that they cannot do so.

Seek Advice

There are a number of organisations providing opportunities for athletes with disabilities and they may be able to provide assistance or advice to a coach who is working with an athlete with
a disability.

Pathways for athletes with disabilities

There are many international pathways for athletes with disabilities:

  • Wheelchair basketball is a Paralympic
    sport for both men and women. World Championships are also conducted at junior and senior level;
  • Athletes with an intellectual disability are able to participate in activities conducted by Special Olympics and at World Championships conducted by INAS (an organization that is a member of the International Olympic Committee);
  • Athletes with a hearing impairment are able to participate in World Championships conducted under the auspices of the ICSD (International Committee of Sports for
    the Deaf).

The specific opportunities available
in each country will vary. In some countries the national basketball federation is also involved in sports for athletes with a disability, although this is not the case in all countries.