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THIS PROJECT WAS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE SUPPORT OF THE ONTARIO TRILLIUM FOUNDATION

PROGRAM summary

Count Us In Teaches sport leaders to cope with difficult behaviour in a group setting and empower children and youth to self-regulate by providing a supportive environment. Interactive games, workbook and group discussion allow coaches to think about how they can use these techniques in their own practice.

In 2018 Freestyle Ontario in partnership with HappiLife Inc, supported by Elearnology and the Canadian Association for Adaptive Snowsports(CADS) led research into verifying effective training for sport coaches.

Find videos modelling the top five program tactics for below. The top 5 support all participants to have a quality sport experience, but are very important for the 1 in 5 youth who are challenged to participate due to hidden disabilities (Including but not limited to ADD, ASD, Learning Disabilities etc)

PREDICTABILITy

Predictability is a very important element of success for most athletes, but especially those who struggle to follow instructions, or guess where the group is headed next. Not knowing what’s next can create anxiety and stress for athletes and parents 

Create and communicate visual schedule of your practice of training plan, with lots of time for parents and athletes to review, and in today’s busy world reinforce it through a variety of communications you are allowed to use in your program:

  • Have available on your website

  • Send reminder emails a week and a couple of days prior (pick a regular time)

  • Use an app to text updates and reminders

  • Send link to video or include pictures whenever possible

  • Have a visual schedule like a chalkboard onsite (easy, cheap, and fast!)

  • Clearly outline the “shape of the day” and check for understanding

  • Throughout the day “frontload” upcoming changes and transitions to new activities

pacing

Pacing is about the rate at which you give information to your athletes to reach set objectives, and the time you allow to achieve these objectives. While many factors will determine the athlete’s success, pacing is at the heart of staying on task. Good pacing allows for play and creativity, and for individuals to learn effectively at their own rate.

Good pacing involves the coach constantly reading their athletes and adapting to maintain flow, fun and learning. Ideally, a really well thought out practice that accounts for the age/stage, needs, goals and likes and dislikes of the group should ideally be able to be executed somewhat to plan, most of the time.

  • When considering pacing a coach is doing a several key things at once:

  • Building skills in manageable chunks

  • Keeping each athlete within their skill comfort zone

  • Delivering clear and concise directions with techniques like I Do/We Do/You Do

  • Understanding the attention span of the athletes

  • Checking for understanding of directions and concepts

  • Varying hard and easy tasks

  • Creating enough repetition for learning

  • Avoiding burn-out and injury

  • Building in fun and motivation

  • Ensuring equipment/games/rules are properly modified for age/stage athletes

Pacing can be more complex and take practice to adapt to some people. For instance, if an athlete is slow to process directions you may need to leave a 10 second pause after you deliver directions.

Some athletes need a lot of one on one, and some simply do not like feeling singled out so you will have different pacing within the group.

It takes discipline for a coach to learn to structure and deliver ideas in small clear pieces over time so the athletes can stay moving and engaged.

TRANSITIONS

Athletes may experience anxiety about changes in routine, like transitioning from one activity to the next.  Some athletes don’t perceive the social cues t others do that help to predict what is coming next, or they may just worry about not being able to cope with the unknown. For example, if the group is all looking tired, or done for the day, most of them may realize the coach will wrap up soon and they might start to relax. An athlete who lacks the ability to “read” this situation may get frustrated that everyone is slowing down for no apparent reason, or conversely, they may worry that they will have to ski for another 2 hours when they are tired like everyone else. If you explicitly point out this sort of thing by stating it in clear terms, you will help to lower the athlete’s anxiety and thus improve their behaviour.

COUNT US IN TECHNIQUE

  • Use as a “Stop” Behaviour - To get your groups attention to focus on you. This is not counting down to a punishment – it is a clear cue to stop the activity. Rehearse until the group responds automatically

  • Use as a “start” behaviour – say, “We are going outside to get our skis on in 5-4-3-2-1-GO”

  • To help athletes regulate spacing among them say,. “After Martin starts - count down from 10 before you follow him”

  • Have fun – make up your own transitions, or borrow some!

  • Use a timer or a clock if transitions are a problem area (phone app, watch or hourglass)

  • If an athlete has organizational struggles, offer tips to help with executive functions:

  • Place gloves inside your helmet so you don’t lose them

  • Always hang your coat on the hook in this corner

chill out zone

A quiet space with limited sensory stimulation (quiet, darker, slower, less crowded) may be exactly what an athlete needs to cool down after a meltdown. Help the athlete to get to this space before a meltdown as a preventative step in managing their behaviour. Self-regulation is an important skill and this quiet space can help them to practice

  • Don’t lecture and avoid threats when an athlete is having a meltdown, help them lower their anxiety and avoid a standoff!

  • Observe the triggers for meltdowns so you can start to identify them before they occur (may appear like an anger tantrum but is often personal frustration “overload” due to a trigger)

  • When athletes are feeling good, discreetly ask them what things might make them feel overwhelmed and how as a coach you could help them

  • Understand that sensory issues can be painful and extremely stressful

  • Notice who the athlete is comfortable with, and who they are not

  • Schedule breaks – make sure your supervision extends into breaks and transitions to other activities

  • Alternate easy/hard exercises to lower pressure

  • Practice calming and mindfulness with all athletes so you can cue them to self-calm. More extreme cases may need a gentle reminder of breathing exercises to do, but beware; this may be strongly rejected (i.e. it’s like being told to relax when you are very angry)!

  • Breathing exercises: Bee Breaths, elevator breaths, birthday candle breaths are tools best practiced ahead of time

IF THERE IS NO QUIET AREA

Create a zone using whatever you have

  • ear phones to mask noise

  • phone apps such as “Smiling Mind” and others

  • facing away from distractions

  • telling a story

Give a relatively simple and repetitive skill to help to regroup:

  • count my pole plants (dynamic)

  • counting cones on the field (static)

  • sing a song and tap along/recite something

Schedule breaks – make sure your supervision extends into breaks and transitions to other activities

•       Alternate easy/hard exercises to lower pressure

•       Practice calming and mindfulness with all athletes so you can cue them to self-calm. More extreme cases may need a gentle reminder of breathing exercises to do, but beware; this may be strongly rejected (i.e. it’s like being told to relax when you are very angry)!

•       Breathing exercises: Bee Breaths, elevator breaths, birthday candle breaths are tools best practiced ahead of time

FIRST THEN

Being intrinsically motivated (from inside) is great, but sometimes a “carrot” goes a long way, especially when tired, hot or cold, or otherwise not entirely motivated.  Young athletes especially, may need a short-term goal to get them moving rather than the promise of rewards months or years away.

USE THE "FIRST:THEN" METHOD

o   “First we try this trick five times, then we get to ski powder in the trees.”

o   “First, we warm-up on a flat run, then I will video you on the moguls.”

o   Be explicit

WAYS I CAN USE THE FIRST/THEN

  • Give athletes some control over their day by letting their choice of games or activity be the reward (it’s really powerful when the group shares excitement)

  • Make the reward clear at the outset- and try not to alter it

  • Occasionally, and if OK with parents and head coach, rewards can be a food treat, or use stickers or small items that are age appropriate

  • Use visuals: show the reward, or a picture of it to show it is real

  • Attach some good consequences (intrinsic motivation like pride, feeling good)

  • Change rewards frequently so they don’t lose value