Why Inclusion in Sports Doesn’t Always Work, by Eileen

By December 20, 2022 February 22nd, 2023 Eileen, NVLD Bloggers

While it is no secret that I am a true believer of full inclusion in individual  sports I am  realistic and understand this can be difficult. Some difficulties have a negative effect on others involved so I get how it doesn’t work for everyone and how it can do more harm than good. However in the end I do believe everyone deserves a chance to experience inclusion in sports.

One of the reasons why full inclusion in sports doesn’t work is that some students with an NVLD or Autism sometimes experience meltdowns regularly making participation harder. While your coaches are very understanding of this it can add stress to your teammates and sometimes it can be so bad that it leads to bullying especially in a sport like track where there is a lot of unsupervised time. Yes this sounds horrible but teenagers often take the opportunity to say hurtful comments and make jokes about them as it isn’t normal behavior. As a result, you may think it is best to leave the team as unlike the school day, you don’t have a quiet place to go and calm down.

Another example of why full inclusion in sports may not be appropriate is that you need  to take guidance and direction from your coaches and learn quickly to cope with change appropriately. While your coaches are very empathic you will need to understand that complaining, being defensive or just saying no too often can have real negative effects on the team as well. If this is an ongoing issue it can take away from the coach being able to coach your teammates and further complicate things for you. I understand this can be  hard as coping with change was hard at first for me but with the wonderful guidance and direction I received from my  coaches and my family I was able to overcome this. However I do understand not everyone is able to cope with these difficulties so I get why this may make being part of a team frustrating.

In addition to observing good behaviors and practicing good listening skills, great parent support is also needed. What I mean by this is that parents have to be willing to go to most meets and be able to pick up their child if issues arise for it to be realistically successful. As the truth is, coaches can’t handle every difficult situation on their own and since in sports students don’t have case managers the parents are called upon more. While I understand this can be tricky given personal schedules it really makes a difference for all involved.

The reason why I believe everyone deserves a chance is you may find  out that being part of a team helps you to better cope with change and physical activity does help prevent meltdowns. A starting point would be to have a meeting with your resource room teacher and coach to discuss your personal goals and what support you will need to have for this to be successful. It will also give you the opportunity to ask questions in a supportive setting which can make all the difference in the world and increase your chances of success since it allows everyone to be on the same page and to be prepared before the season starts.

The next step would be to agree to having your coaches be able to email your parents and resource room teacher weekly so everyone is updated about how things are going. If there are concerns by the middle of the season you could all meet and create an improvement plan for the rest of the season. If this plan just can’t be met then they may tell you being on the team just isn’t going to work. I know this is a little harsh but coaches have many athletes to take care of and their needs count too. However I do believe coaches and IEP teams should offer a partial inclusion option such as being team manager  before saying no to sports all together as personal connections are so important and you may find it is less stressful for you.

Overall while I understand it’s especially hard to be told you can’t be a full inclusion athlete. As being part of a team is so important to a lot of families however you need to accept the coaches decision whether it’s to leave the team or to be a team manager as in the end it’s often for the best as an unsuccessful experience often triggers more difficulties and it affects others involved not just you. This being said I am confident if you communicate and you work hard regularly you will find a way for it to be successful.


Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.

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