5 top-tips on how to lower the struggles and heighten the excellence in ADHD netballers

If you’re a NETFITTER (which, if you’re reading this, you probably are), you should be no stranger to breaking stereotypes, fighting expectations, and embracing your uniqueness. This kind of empowerment and its recognition is vital.

Around 1-in-7 people globally have one or more mental disorders, and that’s only the people who have been diagnosed. A substantial 1 billion people on this Earth (according to worldbank.org) have some form of disability. This can be physical such as quadriplegia, sensory such as blindness or low vision, intellectual such as down syndrome, emotional such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or developmental disorders such as Autism/ASD.

Looking at what is mentioned above, it is very common for many disabilities and disorders to tick multiple of these boxes. This goes to show that one diagnosis can cover all areas of functioning, causing the person to have to learn and adapt in more ways than those without a disability may realise. While our world points towards diversity and acceptance, stopping to understand every beautiful difference might take some time, but the journey is worth the destination.

So who better is there to teach and spread understanding than someone who experiences these differences every day?

We spoke to Ella Martin, an 18-year-old from Melbourne, Australia who both struggles and excels with her ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). She is currently attending the sports-focused SEDA College and plays an important role at NETFIT, coaching within the all-abilities program, assisting with our School Holiday Clinic and being an awesome member of our community. Ella is the true definition of what it means to be a NETFITTER – and that is positive, encouraging, hard-working and a lover of all things netball, friends, life and kids!


Here are her top 5 tips on how to lower the struggles and heighten the excellence in ADHD netballers!



1) As a coach, get the players to demonstrate the drill as you talk through it.

Explaining the drill is the obvious first step before getting everyone into their training. Before you roll your eyes (for how obvious this may sound), let me explain – the best way to improve understanding is to not only explain verbally but be sure to explain physically. People with ADHD are typically hands-on learners, getting the most out of information when they are painting the picture themselves instead of trying to interpret someone else’s sketch. The visual helps complement the verbal, as does the repetition of instructions, so the more instruction the merrier when it comes to coaching.


2) Ask questions that you believe the player will know, to help build their confidence. 

For people that feel like the world is against them, self-esteem issues can often overcome their motivation to be the best versions of themselves. That’s not an exclusive emotion to kids with ADHD, however, it is a heightened feeling for those who are diagnosed, often questioning themselves due to commonly misunderstanding instructions. The lack of self-esteem also means they may find it difficult to recognise their progress if they’re so used to making unintentional mistakes.

The good news is though, you can make a difference to their day and progression through positive reinforcement, constructive feedback and recognition of their progress. Good examples of these are asking them to communicate what they are doing, why they are doing it and congratulating them for a job well done. This helps tick the boxes of comprehension, reason, memory, and engagement. A good coach answers questions, a great coach asks them!



3) Don’t single us out! 

It’s crucial to not highlight our faults or mistakes at training, leaving us to feel isolated and the centre of staring eyes from teammates and on-lookers. It’s not just because we can experience heightened sensitivity regarding the mistakes that we make, it is because we will fear making them again and draw back from becoming involved, possibly not even come back to training.

Yes, we want to learn from our mistakes and always be better (just like everyone else), it is that we may not possess the same level of resilience required to bounce back quickly. A great way to clear up our confusion is to include us the same as everyone else and once the session starts, come and see us separately, speak to us, and refer back to dot point 2 to help us make the necessary changes for improvement. This extra effort to not only break down the skill for us but also make us feel comfortable within the team environment is what will make us love you as a coach.

Fun fact; the less stressed we are, the more likely we are to listen and remember!



4) We love structure so we know each week what’s ahead of us.

Create a familiar environment. Routine is the best friend of the un-organised and creating an outline of what will happen keeps us caught up with the crowd. If we know what is expected we won’t have to endure our mental schedule panicking with placement, we can just get into it. It’s harder to get distracted if we know what our general time-template is – because we’ve had the chance to practice it.

However, giving the plan space for variety is equally as beneficial (kind of confusing after what I’ve just written, I know!), after all, boredom usually shows in the absence of change. The way to juggle the best of both worlds is to keep a structure that you stick to, but allow yourself to change up things in a familiar format. For example, keep your warm-up 15 minutes long but change it up from last week (see, I’ve kept consistent but provided a change!)


5) We get distracted easily, please don’t get mad at us. 

Without knowing exactly what it’s like it can be hard for those without ADHD to know how it is for those with it. The same goes in reverse.

We have trouble regulating the chemicals in our brain that are responsible for happiness and enjoyment, meaning if something is not extremely interesting to us and stimulating us, we may not see it, even when it’s right under our noses. Like most of the symptoms, this is a double-edged sword. We seem to give too much or too little focus to things, or sometimes no focus at all. Be patient, be understanding and be engaging, we’ll come back to you (and it), I promise!


In closing…

These tips alone can be a strong force to help individuals with attention difficulties be and play their best, although not every great strategy can fit into a top-5 internet blog, however, the great thing is, it only takes small efforts to start stepping towards an easier future for both coach and player.

Thank you for taking the time to read and learn some of the tips that I am sharing. NETFIT will be releasing more articles to help provide netball clubs with more resources to assist in developing all-abilities programs, or inclusion policies and procedures at your clubs.


Ella Martin & Cailin Pearce.