Growing up, one of my favorite parts of the school day was connecting with all of my coaches. Truthfully they were the adults who understood me the best, which allowed them to really connect with me. Having these strong relationships is why I strongly believe having a coach/athlete relationship is important for a student with an NVLD or similar disability. The reality is coaches support you in all aspects of life, and because athletics are in a more casual setting, these students can open up more to them.
One of the first reasons I believe this relationship is so important is how my track coach, Penny Sharrow, was among the first to notice when I was not myself. For example, in 10th grade, I was hurting emotionally, and right away, she realized that something wasn’t right with me. What was telling about this was that she continued to check in on me but never once in an uncomfortable way. I just always knew she cared and believed in me. In addition, she kept a close eye on me while I was on the team as she knew from coaching me that I could hide my feelings, unlike in a classroom where I could just keep quiet in the back of the room.
Another reason why I believe this relationship is important for an NVLD student is that it is common for them to learn the proper social skills with guidance and direction. Being part of a team or group allows for this to happen. Personally, Penny made sure I always had a great group of teammates to sit on the bus with and practice with. This allowed me not to have the behavioral and severe social concerns that can sometimes occur for those with an NVLD. I wanted to follow their great example as I never wanted to risk losing the wonderful support my teammates gave me. In addition, the endless support and tremendous confidence Penny had in me allowed me to communicate better with my teachers. As a result, I did not use as much negative self-talk, which helped make my connections even stronger.
Furthermore, a coach can become your biggest advocate, especially a track coach, as often you have the same track coach all through high school and in some cases for 7th and 8th grade too. This continuity helps in forming tremendous trust and understanding from your coaches. With this continuity, the coach develops a great read on your overall personality, and if you face added emotional and social difficulties, they are aware of what triggers them. In many cases, it makes it possible for them to communicate with teachers in a professional way so you receive the right level of support in the classroom and you aren’t underestimated. Personally, This was the case for me as Penny always looked out for me and made sure my teachers saw the same Eileen she did in a professional way.
In terms of being able to form this relationship, it starts by being open about your deficits and goals to your coach ahead of time. This helps them connect with you immediately, making it easier for you to ask for support. Also, you need to be a hard worker from the moment you join the team, as coaches love athletes who are willing to give their all regardless of their overall ability. In the end, you will have someone who will be there for you when you need a little extra support. Personally, I know how true this is as Penny was the adult I could and still can always open up to.
I understand that joining a team may seem hard, but in the end, I can’t say enough about how having a coach/ athlete relationship is so valuable as a coach can see past your NVLD as athletics are in a more casual setting which allows favorable personal and social growth. I know how true this is as my coaches got me used to use humor as a way to communicate and connect with my teammates, and I soon flourished under their watch, whereas, in the classroom, I could be shy and self-conscious about the support I needed and my growth was limited. By always working hard and seeing me every day, my coach saw I wanted to be more connected socially, and she gave me all the right support I needed. Years later, I still say Penny was a tremendous influence on my development, and I do believe if you join a team and stay with it, you will understand what I mean about how a coach and athlete relationship is such an important one to be successful in all ways.
Penny Sharrow and Jim Adams are forever my favorite adults!Share your own story