Copy Link

AllPlay Footy Resources

Empowering coaches to create inclusive Auskick sessions, this guide offers strategies for understanding and supporting young players with diverse abilities, fostering an environment where every child can thrive in the game.
Section 1

Getting to know your Auskicker

This is an important step for any coach. It gives you the chance to find out whether anyone in your group experiences disability or developmental challenge, and what their strengths, abilities and needs are before you start coaching them. You can then start to create an inclusive environment that supports their participation.

To get started, we recommend reviewing your player registrations through PlayHQ. This allows you to learn more about anyone in your group who identifies as living with disability, and the type of disability they live with. You can then visit the Types of Disability section for tips to support your players and give them the best experience during your sessions.

If a young person in your group experiences disability or developmental challenge, you can share the ‘Supporting your child’s participation at footy’ form with their family. This gives them the opportunity to comment on how their child best learns and communicates, and any strategies that help their child feel included. If the family wants to, you could meet with them and their child before the first session.

You could ask them questions like:

  • What activities does your child enjoy the most?
  • Are there any things they find particularly challenging?
  • Are there things I can do to support their participation?
  • Are there situations that they find stressful?
  • Are there things that I can do to help your child understand or learn a new skill?
  • What is the best way to communicate?


Keep in mind though that some families might not want to share that their child experiences disability, and this is their right.

Section 2

Adapting your session

The ‘Change It’ approach
This approach helps coaches modify activities to meet the individual needs of an Auskicker. With ‘Change it’, coaches learn to observe young people, note any challenges, make changes, then observe again to see what’s worked and if anything else should change. It’s flexible, thoughtful coaching that promotes inclusion.
You should ‘Change It’ when:

  • One or more players need support to understand, join in, or safely achieve the purpose of the activities.
  • One or more players aren’t having fun.
  • The challenge is too difficult, too easy, or not appropriate for varying abilities.


Ways you can modify activities

These modifications can help create inclusive environments for young people with disability:

  • Share information in several different ways, such as spoken, pictures, videos, modelling, buddies
  • Providing examples/demonstrations can be a useful tool for teaching new skills, particularly for young people who may not hear all of the instructions
  • Make sure young people with disability get a similar amount of feedback and attention as young people without disability
  • Think about playing indoors or outdoors, how the playing surface might affect someone with mobility aids, and whether you can make the area safer with a fence
  • Allow players to bring their own equipment, like gloves or a modified ball
  • Use small groups and choose the groups yourself so no one is left out. You could also try matching groups based on skill levels
  • Allow enough time to teach and practice new skills, and remember that some young people participate best when activities are shortened
  • Provide activities where players can succeed. This will help them gain confidence and boost their self-esteem.
Section 3

ABC approach to behaviour

Sometimes, young people may behave in a way that you don’t understand during a footy session. It’s important to know that behaviour always serves a purpose. Finding out what a young person is trying to communicate is key to understanding their behaviour, and how you can support them.

The ‘ABC’ in ABC approach stands for Antecedent, Behaviour and Consequence. The ABC approach is a tool coaches can use to work out what happened before, during and after a behaviour.

  • A is for Antecedent (what happens before)

This is usually a trigger, like being asked to do something they don’t want to do, feeling a certain way (eg. anxious or tired), or having a negative interaction with another player.

  • B is for Behaviour (what happens during)

Describe the behaviour - What does it look like? How intense is it? How often does it happen, and for how long?

  • C is for Consequence (what happens after)

What is the young person getting out of their behaviour? It may be what someone does in reaction to the behaviour, like giving them attention or an object. It could also be the young person escaping from an activity or situation, or getting sensory relief (e.g., finding a quiet spot).


Thinking about behaviour in this way can help you identify and decrease the triggers or outcomes of behaviour that you don’t understand, which can help to reduce the behaviour in the future.

Sometimes, we won’t know why a young person behaves a certain way. In many situations, the player and their parents will not know either. That is okay. Just because you don't know 'why' doesn't stop you from working together with the player and their family to find a solution. Remember, behaviour is complex.

Section 4

Areas of Support

You might notice barriers to a young person's participation during a session. The below sections provide strategies you can use to support young people in areas that may prevent participation.

Listening and following instructions

With all the fun of an Auskick session, it can be a challenging environment to keep young people’s attention while giving them instructions and young people can differ in their capacity for listening and following instructions. Often when a young person becomes distracted, isn’t listening, or doesn’t follow instructions, it’s not because they mean to.

Here are some tips to help:
  • Have a consistent routine, at each session, and give a visual schedule. Adding visual instructions to spoken instructions can help engage a young person’s attention.
  • Reduce background noise and other distractions while giving instructions so everyone can hear. Call the young person’s name or make eye contact to help players pay attention.
  • Repeat and simplify your instructions. You could divide the activity into small parts and teach one part at a time. Only move on once players understand the previous part.
  • Check understanding. Ask them in a supportive way to tell you in their own words what they have to do for an activity to check they have understood. Try to do this in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the player.
  • Slow down an activity the first few times it is played, so young people have more time to learn. Let players do more repetitions, if needed.
  • Keep activities short to help with focus. Using a clock or timer that players can see can be useful to help players know when the activity will finish. It is also helpful to provide warning of when the activity is going to end, for example “We will stop this activity in 5 minutes”.



Helping participants join in

Young people might not join in with an activity for a number of different reasons (eg. feeling unwell, overwhelmed, nervous about others watching, unsure how to join in). As a coach, stepping back and observing can help you identify what might be going on. Look for patterns - is it all activities they don’t join in for, or only some? What’s their body language or facial expression telling you? What do they enjoy doing? Here are some tips that might help:

  • Ask young people what activities they enjoy the most. You could ask: What do you like about footy? Is there anything at footy you like best? Which parts of footy do you not enjoy as much?
  • Allow them to join the group in their own time, which may or may not be at the start of an activity.
  • Understand that it might take a couple of sessions for a player to feel comfortable enough to join in, and that is okay! You could discuss this with the young person and their family.
  • Begin activities at a level that allows young people to be successful, and gradually increase the level of difficulty over time. Success and improvement can act as motivators.
  • Choose the teams yourself to reduce the chances of anyone feeling left out. Match young people of similar skill levels and use small groups to help them feel more at ease and confident in their abilities.
  • Give players the opportunity to perform other roles, such as umpiring, if they don’t want to join the game as a player.



Support participants with building relationships

Young people might need support to chat to others, make new friends, share items, and play in groups. Sometimes it can look like they don’t want to talk or play with others, but they might actually be nervous or worried. Lots of things can impact the way we interact with others (eg. being shy versus outgoing, feeling sad versus happy, our communication skills etc.). Some of these things may make social situations more difficult to navigate. Here are some tips to help make social situations easier for young people:

  • Allow young people to join the group in their own time, which may not be at the start of an activity.
  • Understand that it might take a couple of sessions for players to feel comfortable interacting with others. Involvement may be gradual, and this is okay!
  • Try activities such as fun structured icebreakers. These can help young people connect with others with similar interests.
  • Pair young people with a buddy to help them feel more confident during activities.
  • Use smaller groups, which can help some young people feel safer.
  • Choose the teams yourself so no one is left out. Matching young people of similar skill levels in small groups can help them feel more at ease and confident in their abilities.
  • Avoid games where young people are eliminated. Have full participation for the players who are joining in at all times.
  • Ensure the Player Code of Behaviour is followed to make sure everyone is treated with respect.



Support behaviour

Behaviour always serves a purpose. It’s a way of communicating feelings, or a need or want. Things like differences in communication, social and cognitive abilities, and feeling anxious or scared can all affect behaviour. Sometimes, young people may behave in ways that could place themselves or others at risk of harm (eg. overly rough play, shouting, running away). Here are some tips for supporting young people’s behaviour:

  • Set and teach clear, simple rules for attendance, behaviour and sportsmanship. Teach parents the rules too, so they can reinforce them with their child.
  • Focus on the behaviour, not the young person, and frame the rules in a positive way. For example, “Don’t shout at others” could be phrased as “Always use a calm voice”.
  • Consistency is key. If rules are set, it’s important they’re followed at all times. Encourage the behaviour you want to see - this can be more effective than discipline.
  • Have a consistent routine and a clear visual schedule that is also explained verbally to provide predictability and support young people moving from one activity to the next.
  • Communicate clearly and calmly, making sure you have the young person’s attention before giving instructions. Use short sentences, and only give 1-2 instructions at a time. Check if the young person understands by asking them what you have said. Try to do this in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the player.
  • Consider what the triggers (lead up to) of a behaviour might be so you can change or avoid them. Also consider what the consequence (outcome) might be, so that you can provide the player with another option.
  • Have an agreed activity that the young person can do if things become too overwhelming. This would be an activity they enjoy and do well. Or, let them have a break and rejoin the group when they’re ready.
  • Interrupt carefully. Some young people might get upset if someone interrupts the way they do something. Try to understand why they are doing something in a particular way. Allow the young person to keep doing things their own way or give them a break.
  • Involve parents to help support young people with their emotions.



Support participants when they are distressed or upset

Young people are still learning how to express and manage their emotions. Footy activities may bring up lots of different emotions for some young people (eg. excitement, frustration, anxiety). Some may experience big emotions. They might feel so overwhelmed or overstimulated that they have a ‘fight or flight’ response (which can involve yelling, distress, running away, or shutting down). This response isn’t typically something young people can control. When they’re distressed or upset, young people need support and a safe space to manage these big emotions.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Speak with the young person and their parent about what works best for them when they feel distressed or upset. Communication between coaches and families can provide useful strategies to support emotions during a footy session.
  • Be aware of the signs of a player becoming distressed or upset. Look for these signs and reduce what is asked of them in these situations.
  • Think about what their triggers might be, and change or avoid them. For example, if a young person becomes distressed by changes in routine, providing notice in advance of a change in activities and providing a clear structure for each session could help to reduce distress in the future.
  • Offer a break. Sometimes, young people might become angry and upset without a clear reason. Giving them a break and getting their parents to help can assist them in settling their emotions.
  • If a player has become overwhelmed, provide a couple of simple choices. For example, allow breaks, and provide a quiet, safe space that young people know they can access whenever they need.
  • Have an agreed activity the young person can do if things become overwhelming. This would be an activity they enjoy and do well, and could be encouraged if they need a break or time to manage their emotions.
  • Be calm, warm and support the young person with acceptance, eg. “It’s okay if you feel upset”, and finding a solution, eg. “Would you like a break?”. Talk about what happened without laying blame, and plan for how to manage things differently next time.
Section 5


The language we use can influence people’s perceptions and affect people’s lives. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to language and it is important to be considerate of these.

When referring to a person’s disability, some people prefer person-first language, which puts the focus on the person, not the disability (eg. ‘person on the autism spectrum’).

Other people prefer identity-first language for disability, which can help people to claim their disability with pride (eg. ‘autistic person’). The best approach is to always use the person’s name when talking to them or about them.

Some language choices can be offensive and discriminatory. Use the table below to consider terms that should be avoided and find recommended alternatives.

  Term to avoid Recommended alternative
When referring to a child with disability... suffers from..., handicapped, differently abled, disabled child, special needs, inspirational. child with disability, has disability, lives with disability.
When referring to a child with a physical disability... wheelchair bound, paraplegic, quadriplegic, physically disabled. child who uses a wheelchair, child with quadriplegia, child with paraplegia, child with physical disability.
When referring to a child with an intellectual disability... intellectually challenged, mentally disabled, mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, slow, retarded, special. child with cognitive disability, child with intellectual disability.
When referring to a child who has autism... aspy/aspie, high-functioning autism, profoundly autistic. child with autism, child on the autism spectrum, neurodivergent, child with autism with complex support needs.
When referring to a child who does not have a disability... able bodied, healthy, normal. child without disability, non-disabled child.


Adapted from: People With Disability Australia. (2019). ‘What do I say? A guide to language about disability’.

Note: Some terms in the table above are offensive. They are included to provide examples of language to avoid. 

Strengths-based language

Strengths-based language focuses on the young person’s strengths, abilities and interests, rather than any deficits or challenges. It focuses on what they can do, not what they can’t. We provide some examples of deficit-based language and strength-based alternatives below. 

Deficit-based language Strengths-based language
Is unable to... With support, they can...
Doesn't adjust well to changes in routine... They prefer things to be done in a particular way or order.
Struggles to follow instructions... They are keen to get involved, but I have noticed they miss instructions at times. Are there strategies you use at home that might be helpful at footy?


The content in this article has been adapted from the AllPlay Learn ‘Language Guide’ (2020).

Section 6

Inclusive centres

NAB AFL Auskick centres are inclusive to everyone. Coordinators play an important part in creating an inclusive environment at their centre. They make sure everyone feels welcome and involved, and that the environment and equipment is suitable and safe for players of all abilities. Coordinators could also direct the coaches to resources to support their disability awareness.

Displaying the Access All Abilities (AAA) accreditation on PlayHQ

Displaying the Access All Abilities (AAA) accreditation on PlayHQ highlights a commitment to providing a supportive and inclusive environment for people with disability to play Australian football.

Families searching for AAA clubs/centres should be provided with the confidence that the club/centre has completed the below items, thereby showing their proactive approach to support the disability community to enjoy playing at their venue.

Not every club/centre will be the same, so we recommend you attend the club/centre before registering to ensure it can cater to your needs. 

To receive the AAA accreditation, clubs/centres:

a) Have completed a venue accessibility audit.

b) Have planned what type of program/s they are able to offer - disability specific, side by side or integrated.

c) Will provide the opportunity for a friend with or without a disability to join.

d) Have had their coaches leading the program complete the FREE AllPlay Footy Disability Inclusion Coaching Course.

e) Have visited the AllPlay Footy section on to access the resources to support coaches, coordinators, parents, and players.

f) Have identified a quiet space a player and families can use should they need to during the session.

g) Have considered other areas to hold the session if needed, e.g. indoors if the oval is too wet and muddy for young people who use wheelchairs/walkers.

h) Have used a diverse range of images and videos of people with disability on the club website, social media and within club newsletters to show a welcoming and inclusive club.

i) Will provide the opportunity for families to tour their venue and meet the key club personnel prior to the first session.

j) Committed to reviewing their player registrations on PlayHQ, to understand who in their group identifies as living with disability and developed plans for support or modifications that ensure experiences are positive.

k) May offer smaller group programs to increase engagement and enjoyment for everyone.

l) Commit to displaying the session plan visually before the start of each session (eg. on a whiteboard) and explain the schedule verbally.

m) Consider the support required to run a program. They may secure additional coaches and/or volunteers to support individuals who may require one on one support to participate.

n) Ensure people with disability are considered when developing club policies, procedures, and guidelines.

Types of Auskick centres

There are three types of Access All Abilities Auskick centres - Disability Specific, Side by Side, and Integrated.

Disability Specific

These are stand-alone centres set up specifically for young people with disability. They are generally set up at a Specialist School or Early Intervention Centre. While we always aim to have young people of all abilities playing footy together, there may be times when a young person with disability and their family prefer a disability specific centre. These centres can provide a greater level of support, which may create the best Auskick experience for the young person.

Side by Side

Side by Side centres allow a group specifically for young people with disability to operate alongside the group within an existing Auskick centre. The group of young people with disability are given a bit more space and support, and provided with the flexibility to move between their group and the existing group as they like.


An integrated Auskick centre has all young people, both with and without disability, playing footy together. It’s important that coordinators and coaches review registrations to see who identifies as living with disability, and adapt your session to support the needs of each player.

Section 7


Playing footy can have many benefits for young people, not just physically but socially too. Being included is truly important for their overall wellbeing. However, many young people experience barriers to participation. At times, barriers may be related to identity. For some young people, a combination of characteristics that make up their identity (eg. race, gender, disability, age) can mean that they face multiple, overlapping barriers to inclusion. This refers to intersectionality, which recognises that people hold different identities and can experience participation barriers related to these identities.

Experiencing multiple barriers can make it even harder for young people to play footy. This is why it is important to consider intersectionality.  You don’t need to be an expert in every identity (e.g., cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, disabilities), but being aware of intersectionality can help you identify ways to support meaningful participation of players with disability. Inclusive coaches embrace diversity, value the participation of all players, provide everyone with equal access and opportunities to be involved, and break down the barriers that prevent participation.

This content has been adapted from AllPlay Learn ‘Intersectionality and school communities: a brief overview’.