SEN cheer is rewarding for athletes, families, coaches and helpers.
Delivering an SEN programme can be quite daunting, particularly as challenging behaviour can be unpredictable. Therefore, we as coaches must have a good understanding of risks and de-escalation approaches we may need to employ for each individual athlete.
Below are some do's and dont's of starting and running an SEN team.
Start small! Starting with 2 or 3 athletes- building slowly is a safe and effective way of developing your SEN team, whilst making sure you are able to manage any challenges that you may face.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the needs of the athletes in your care- so you can facilitate them as an individual and group, including knowing the triggers for their behaviour.
Make sure you have enough support to run your sessions- it is rare that sessions go to plan (be flexible).
Provide a trial period for new athletes to watch your session. For some, cheerleading just isn’t the right activity and will only serve to increase their general anxiety.
Plan your sessions and try to keep certain elements consistent- like the type of warm up. Often SEN teams as a general rule will like a structure they understand and that will minimise anxiety (especially when working with children on the autistic spectrum!).
Force athletes into competition for the sake of competing. The fact that your athletes are training, or even stood watching, is a huge step forward for them.
Assume you can ‘wing’ a session. You must ensure, all actions taken, are done with the athletes well-being in mind.
Be afraid to turn down a child whose needs you cannot cater for, or who is too dangerous to have in the environment. But do try to accommodate an athlete by changing the environment, perhaps by turning the music down or asking athletes not to crowd them- this will of course depend on the needs of the athlete.
Thank you for reading, and happy coaching!