While forming relationships with your teachers is especially important for an NVLD student, or any learning disability for that matter, it is equally as important for these students to have a relationship with a coach. As a coach and athlete, the relationship in many cases is more casual and you can have more heart to heart conversations about what you’re going through. The level of attention you receive is also so greater as your coaches have less teammates than teachers have students.
One of the first reasons why I believe this type of relationship is important is that coaches pick up faster when something is wrong. They notice the changes in your demeanor while in the classroom teachers may just think your behavior is the result of you being tired. For example, when I started to develop anxiety, Jim Adams, my cross-country coach was the one who first noticed it as I wasn’t working as hard nor was I laughing at the funny remarks he gave me so often. He then called my parents and took care of the situation immediately which allowed me to get the help I needed.
It also is common for some with an NVLD to learn proper social skills by having direction and support from each other. The constant togetherness of a team can be a tremendous resource, which a coach can be instrumental in building. For me, my two closest high school friends are former runners which is thanks to Jim and my track coaches. Besides gaining more friendships, I learned how to communicate with adults better and to be honest about my challenges in a more appropriate way rather than using negative self-talk.
In addition to creating friendships a coach can become your biggest advocate. This especially happens in individual sports as you often have the same coach for multiple years. Through experience, the coach can understand your strengths and weaknesses better than most. Therefore, it gives them the opportunity to act as teachers to you if needed. Personally, my disability includes noticeable difficulties and my strengths were hidden so my coach would at times talk to my teachers who had some concerns. It was always in an appropriate way and never put the teachers down as he knew how unique NVLD is.
Generally, this relationship happens by speaking about your deficits to your coaches before the season starts. This helps your coaches to know about your unique needs ahead of time and they can be a stronger support to you. Besides open communication, always doing your best is also key as coaches love hard workers and highly respect effort. The end results will allow you to have someone who will do an excellent job looking out for you and your best interests.
In fact, years later Jim Adams continues to be an incredible mentor and a great friend too. I also still consider my track coaches as tremendous supporters during my hard teenage years and how they continued to support me throughout college. The special part about Jim though is how he has always been part of my successes and failures. More importantly I have always been able to be myself with him as he understood me better than others. Personally, I laugh more with him and speak clearer to him than any other adult. I love how he can give me a wonderful piece of advice or a zinger and that I can give him a zinger right back. Seeing how our relationship continues to be so strong, I wish others with similar challenges would understand how important a relationship with a coach is for us. Having an NVLD can bring emotional and social challenges and as I see it coaches can often provide a great deal of support in these areas allowing us to become the best we can.
Overall as hard as athletics may seem, the truth is that coaches love all athletes who are kind, respectful, and work hard. It certainly took me a long time to understand this and I often questioned my parents. By my junior year of high school, I understood my parents’ decision to have me in sports since kindergarten. Now I am eternally grateful to have such great relationships with wonderful coaches over the years. I think about this every visit I have with Jim Adams even if it is just for a few minutes.
I will always love my former coaches though Jim Adams is extra special as I am blessed to have a wonderful relationship with his whole family!Share your own story