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Inclusive Coaching Considerations | Inclusive Coaching | ConnectedCoaches

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Inclusive Coaching

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How to Create an Inclusive Coaching Environment

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Inclusive Coaching Considerations

Disabled people should have access to the same choices as non disabled people. Chances are throughout your coaching you will coach someone with an impairment.

Here are some quick tips to help you create an inclusive coaching environment. Create a positive first experience of mainstream sport for everyone, and ensure they continue to participate in an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Here’s how it’s done………. 

Initial contact

  •  Welcome

 If a new or different athlete feels welcomed, a positive experience is much more likely. Speak to the new player or athlete and find out their motivations to join and what they want to achieve. With a disabled participant, find out what they are ABLE to do, do not focus on their impairment.

  • Content of first session

 Use ‘open’ activities to ensure everyone can join in and has a positive first experience. Having spoken to your new participants, you should be able to understand their experience and ability levels. Keep checking they are comfortable with the drill or activity.

  • Gelling with the group

Allow all participants to get to know each other. Facilitate sessions that allows people to ‘mingle’ as long as they are comfortable to do so. Be prepared to manage any negative attitudes towards people with lower abilities. Everyone has to start somewhere!

  •  Ignoring versus highlighting impairment

Support your disabled participants to develop at their own speed but also ensure their skills are developing at a comfortable level. Do not assume they can’t do something because of their impairment. They are the specialist of their own abilities. Keep talking to them. Ignoring them as you don’t want to say ‘the wrong thing’ is just bad practice.

Practical considerations 

  • Equipment

 Learn about equipment which is specifically adapted to suit the needs of disabled people in your sport. Also, use your own knowledge of coaching and your sport to adapt equipment which is frequently used. Work with the individual to find the right equipment to suit their needs. Your passion for the sport will be advantageous as you and it will develop your own skills as a coach.

  •  Individual preferences

Respect an individual’s preference as to with whom they work. You may need to balance allowing individuals to have personal choice and the need to work with different participants for their own skill development. Ensure this is managed through talking to the individual and working with them to understand why this is happening. Keep your language positive and ensure this does not demotivate them.

  •  Safety

 As with any new starter, you should check medical history. This would be no different to working with new disabled participants. You may need to check medical considerations for new participant, but common sense is the most useful tool. Communicate with the participant rather than making isolated judgements about what might create ‘safety’. Further information relating to specific impairments can be accessed through the National Disability Sport Organisations. (Sport England funded organisations to focus on support for people with specific impairments in sport)

  •  Venue

There may be additional considerations to your choice of venue. Consider what wet weather and winter training venues are appropriate, based on accessibility, facilities, environment and conditions. Don’t just think about lifts and ramps, consider changing facilities, toilets, transport links and accessible parking facilities. See the Access for All: Opening Doors guide from EFDS around accessible venues for disabled people.

Content of session

  •  Style of delivery – Inclusion Spectrum

The Inclusion Spectrum can give you options to run your activities in different ways, thus balancing the different needs of the group. (For information about our workshops to support the development of this knowledge see below). This tool will extend your abilities around differentiation.

Building up a menu of simple activities that athletes with different levels of skill can take part in can assist you in assessing the needs of new athletes.

  •  Flexible delivery – STEPS

Adapting and modifying all aspects of the session can help you include athletes of all abilities. As above, STEPS will support your coaching skills of differentiation.

  •   Ensure challenge

Disabled athletes need to be challenged in the same way as anyone else. Don’t assume that disabled people need to have things made easier in order for the challenge to be appropriate. Many disabled athletes will be as skilled as their non-disabled teammates. They live day to day with their impairment so have found ways to overcome ‘hurdles’ of everyday living.


  •  Pathways available

Know where the next step is for your disabled participants if they want to develop further than your sessions allow. Disabled people can compete with non-disabled people at a local level but it is worthwhile knowing what local disability sport clubs exist for talented disabled athletes. Some disabled athletes and their parents/carers may need a degree of support in finding the appropriate ‘next step’ on their player pathway. Go the extra mile!

  •  Other opportunities

Not all sports have a competition pathway for every impairment group. Certain disabled athletes therefore will not have an obvious ‘next step’ in their chosen sport. It may be appropriate to discuss a change of sport with them if they want to compete in disability sport. Be prepared to have these discussions. What sport would suit their abilities? Once again, support is available from the National Disability Sport Organisations.


  • Coach

A review of, and reflection on, the session by you is essential to provide continued high quality inclusive coaching. What worked well, what didn’t go so well and why? Do you have a knowledge gap about the participant? Do you need to speak to them further to discuss different approaches?

  •  Work as a team with your disabled participant

Disabled athletes may be a very useful source of information and feedback. As mentioned above, they are the specialists in their impairment. You know your sport – between you, you will find the solution.

  •  Experts

Speak to your Governing Body’s disability or equality lead. Speak to other coaches (not just disability specific coaches). Don’t just stay within your sport for support, widen your conversations. Ask questions within coaching networks. The answers are out there!

Next steps

I referenced the Inclusion Spectrum and STEPs in this post. If you would like to find out more about these there is a free to download ‘Quick Guide to Inclusive Coaching’ on the sports coach UK website. Alternatively you can download it in the sports coach UK app, which is available on the App Store or you can get it on Google Play.

sports coach UK also has a number of workshops you can attend to learn more about how to make your coaching more inclusive. Visit the sports coach UK website to find out more about these workshops.


Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any you’d like to share with your fellow coaches? As I mentioned above, widen your network and get talking. Share a comment below

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