While many young people enjoy success in sport, for most young people, the benefits and reasons for playing are much wider. For example:
- Attending Auskick can support young people’s mental health (eg. anxiety) and motor abilities (eg. aiming and catching abilities).
- Their interest in sport connects them to other people in the community and can provide an opportunity to develop friendships with peers who have similar interests.
- The routine of sports training and recreational lessons, and the presence of a supervising adult can provide a supportive framework for all young people to socialise.
- Young people who engage in regular exercise are healthier, sleep better and can even concentrate better on school work.
- Sport and recreation activities can help them develop important life skills, learn to set their own goals and develop a different side of their identity.
- Auskick is all about having fun!
Learning how to play footy can take a little bit of time for young people to become familiar with, especially if they haven’t played before. Some ways you can support your child to understand and join in include:
- Finding the best way for coaches, other parents and players to communicate with your child. For some young people, this means using shorter instructions, using visual prompts such as signs and pictures, or repeating instructions. These communication strategies are likely to help other young people in the group too, so parents should not feel awkward about asking adults to use these.
- The AllPlay Footy Stories can be used at home to help young people become familiar with footy.
- You could speak to the coach about having a buddy or helper to help your child participate in activities during sessions.
Participation may need to start slowly to support a young person with overcoming anxiety about moving out of comfortable routines. Creating a plan to gradually introduce your child to footy may help.
- You could start by reading the AllPlay Footy stories (link off) with your child at home to become familiar with what happens at Auskick.
- You and your child could visit the footy field where they will play Auskick before starting the program. You could also arrange for your child to meet the coach before the first session. This can help to introduce your child to the new environment.
- Choice of activity is important. Consider talking to your child’s coach about other ways your child can be involved at footy (eg. umpire) if they do not wish to always participate as a player. It’s important to keep in mind that some young people might find it more rewarding to challenge themselves in individual activities, rather than be part of a group. For these young people, recreation activities that are individually based, such as running, dancing or swimming, may suit.
A positive attitude from the coach, good policies about bullying and the support of other parents and young people can go a long way to helping young people feel safe and included. The AFL have policies in place including the Player Code of Behaviour, Parents / Carers and Spectators Code of Conduct (link off) and the Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy (link off) to support this. If you have concerns that you would like to raise, you can contact our support team here.
Coaches and Coordinators
- Say ‘Hi’ and use the young person’s name. Also think about your body language and facial expression. Be open and friendly – use open hands, wave hello and smile.
- When saying hello to a young person who is blind or has low vision, always tell the player your name when you start talking with them, even if you have met them many times before.
- Some young people may use computerised systems, sign language, gestures, eye movements, symbols or pictures to communicate. If you’re unsure, ask the young person or their parent about how best to communicate with the young person.
- Learn about the young person’s strengths, abilities and interests, and avoid making assumptions about the challenges the young person may have.
- Coaches should say hello and welcome a young person in a wheelchair in the same way they would a young person who doesn’t use a wheelchair. Say ‘Hi’ and use the young person’s name.
- Also think about your body language and facial expression. Be open and friendly – use open hands, wave hello and smile.
- Treat all players equally and don’t assume that anyone requires modifications.
- When talking with a young person in a wheelchair, try to come down to the young person’s level and make eye contact by kneeling or sitting on a bench.
- Think of a young person’s wheelchair as part of their personal space. This means it’s respectful not to touch or lean on the chair without asking or being invited.
- Modify activities so that all young people can have a go. Run activities that can be adapted and have different levels of difficulty. The ‘Change it’ (link) principles can help coaches think of ways to modify an activity to meet the individual needs of a young person.
- It may be helpful to use small groups. Matching young people of the same skill level in small groups can help young people feel more at ease and confident in their abilities and may help cater activities to different skill levels within a larger group.
- Modify activities so that all young people can have a go. Run activities that can be adapted and have different levels of difficulty. The ‘Change it’ principles can help coaches think of ways to modify an activity to meet the individual needs of a young person.
- It may be helpful to use small groups. Matching young people of the same skill level in small groups can help young people feel more at ease and confident in their abilities, and may help cater activities to different skill levels within a larger group.
- If coaches have a concern about a young person’s behaviour because it may put the young person or other young people at risk of harm, this should be discussed with the parent in a non-judgemental, open, and collaborative way.
- The goal of the discussion should be to understand the behaviour and its purpose. For example, the young person might be trying to communicate that something is making them uncomfortable or that they are feeling tired.
- Having a conversation with parents early to reduce the chances of the behaviour becoming more pronounced over time is a good idea.
- Parents know their child best and might be able to assist in understanding and recognising triggers and behaviours. The family might be able to help develop strategies that will support the young person to communicate what they are thinking and feeling, and to get them more involved in a positive way. Involving parents, siblings or buddies can be a good way to help involve the young person in the activities, but make sure you check if this is okay with the player.
Some young people can be very social and friendly. It can be helpful to be clear about what is appropriate when talking and interacting with others. For example, tell players that it is more appropriate to give a high-five than a hug at footy.