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ADHD and Hockey: Should You Tell Your Child’s Coach?

Last week we had a discussion about how much information you should divulge to a coach if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. The question had originated with a Hockey Mom in Canada who has a son recently diagnosed with ADHD, and she was looking for input and advice. Once again, our community of hockey moms pulled through and offered  suggestions and opinions that ranged from “don’t make it a problem if it isn’t one” to “you need to give the coach a heads up”. Many of you shared your own stories about your children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, and how you handled it with coaches.

Typically when we ask those questions, I try to keep my own opinions to myself, at least until others have a chance to offer theirs as I don’t want to sway Hockey Moms in Canada one way or the other. There are far too many of you out there who have far more experience and wisdom than me, so I’m always interested in what you have to say. However, some of you have asked me outright what I think on this one.

In my experience, if handled correctly, it can help to tell the coach what is going on with your child. I don’t limit this to ADHD, by the way, I’m likely to tell the coach if my son is recovering from the flu, or is exceptionally tired. That being said, our children are young and I’d probably tell the coach far less if they were older.

My opinion is that If you have a child playing hockey with ADHD, your coach should probably know.  It’s not to make excuses for your son, or to identify him or her as a “trouble maker”, it’s simply to let the coach know that it takes a little different approach to get the child to focus, and that it’s nothing personal.  It’s highly likely that you have a couple tips for the coach on how to help your child pay attention on the ice. There could be a need for you  to discuss parameters and what the coach will do if the behaviour gets out of control and is distracting the other players, or becoming a danger (this goes for all kids, by the way, not just those with ADHD).

I happen to be married to a teacher turned administrator who has a special education background  and, more importantly, who would definitely have been diagnosed with ADHD himself if such diagnosis were common back when he was in school. He has also coached a lot of kids with ADHD in a multitude of sports.  I asked him what he thought about the issue, “to tell the coach or not to tell the coach”. He had an interesting response.

He explained to me that yes, as a coach he would appreciate knowing about a child’s diagnosis. He said that full information helps coaching staffs provide extra effort/support to enable children to focus,  the only unfortunate part is that many coaches don’t know how to deal with Attention Deficit conditions.  He hopes that parents understood how valuable an asset sports are for all kids, and especially those with ADHD. He explained it like this: Most people can focus on one or two things at the most. People with ADHD can focus on a whole bunch of things all at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you can find a way to channel your energy. Sports such as hockey, help to channel that energy, which is great for young kids and adults for that matter.

My husband found a way to channel his energy, it was through training. He was not a hockey player, but did become an elite athlete winning national medals in boxing and international medals in kickboxing. Even now with three kids and as a vice principal in a secondary school, if he does not get up in the wee hours of the morning for a 10K run, the rest of us can tell because he is bouncing off walls all day. He credits sports for providing him an opportunity to vent that extra energy, which allowed him to focus more intensely on whatever goals he set.

So, to the mom who was wondering, I would say that if you feel it would be helpful, then by all means do it. That being said, I fully recognize that each situation is different and there is a small chance that the child would suffer more harm than good from the disclosure. More important, though, I hope that you, and all moms, recognize what a service you may be doing for your child by giving them an opportunity to get out there and channel that energy!

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