When I started playing football, I was six years old. I wasn’t an instant fanatic, mostly because I knew I was terrible. I had a hard time paying attention in those early stages of learning the game and this played a huge role in my confidence as I entered the field. You see, I have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia. I believe athletics are great for children but are sometimes intimidating and make individuals begin to question their abilities; this is especially true when considering children with learning differences.
For me, like many, it took a dedicated dad/coach not allowing me to quit. As a football athlete with learning differences, I can see firsthand that there are some extra challenges. A lot of the challenges athletes with learning differences face are their ability to focus and process during crucial situations as well as needing accommodations for remembering plays.
It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I truly started enjoying playing football. I became part of my high school team, The New Way Bulldogs, coached by head of school and head coach, Mike Walker. One of the more time-consuming challenges for a coach who may cater to athletes like me is having to adjust your playbook so the players can understand them better. During practices, special plays are created so that everyone can easily understand them. A lot of the time I don’t remember the round or formations, so at my school, the plays are made so that they are very clear and easy to remember. My school is a special place. New Way Academy in Arcadia caters to students with learning differences in grades K-12. Inside of the classroom and out on the field, the staff give 100% in effort into teaching each individual student and creating a plan for them to learn and succeed; they are the play makers.
Another challenge athletes with learning differences face is their ability to stay focused during very important moments. Often times for athletes with ADHD, the crowd, with their chants and cowbells, the announcers, the lights even, can easily break concentration for the game, which is very important. Part of your performance on the field is how well you can keep your “head in the game”, but people with learning differences have the additional challenge of learning how to block out the rest of their surroundings and focus on what’s happening in front of them.
Athletes with learning differences will often have to face unique challenges and are forced to learn the game differently, but sports are a great for kids. They are fantastic for teaching kids traits they will carry-on for the rest of their lives and providing an outlet for them to feel successful, especially when within the classroom that is not always the case. As an athlete with learning differences, I have faced some hardship that in the end I hope will payoff and have greater outcomes than I ever expected.