Coaching the Special Needs Child in U10 Soccer

You’ve just found out that one of your players is severely allergic to peanuts and another has asthma which is mostly controlled. Coaching the special needs child is just like coaching the rest of the team except with a few special accommodations.

Peanut, Tree Nut, and Milk Allergy

Food allergies are more prevalent, so chances are, you will have someone with a moderate or severe allergy at some point in your coaching career. High-energy snacks are a mainstay of sports. These might include granola, trail mix, peanut covered caramel apples during fall leagues, even cheese and crackers or fruity breakfast bars. Asking about medical concerns prior to the first practice eliminates surprises. Parents should be safe bringing fruit and water for snacks. Inspect all areas to make sure that they are food debris free. Even little hands swiping benches can leave residue that can cause a reaction. Coaches need to make sure epipens are close by and knowing how to use them in an emergency is a plus as you never know who had what snack in the player areas before your team.


An asthmatic player will probably have an inhaler close by much like the food allergic child may have an epipen handy. Chances are, you’re not going to need them but know where they are and make sure the younger players know how to use them. Usually life-long asthmatics will know even at the U10 level how to use the inhaler, but recently diagnosed players may not. Get clear instructions from the parents. Also, you may want medical release statements for your files. If the asthma is exercise induced asthma, watch the player for signs of wheezing. The parents and the player are your greatest resource for individual information. Don’t be timid about asking questions.

H1N1 and Seasonal Flu

The flu is not just a winter and early spring ailment anymore. Be prudent and keep hand sanitizer and tissue on hand. For other respiratory or seasonal distresses such as colds and allergies, same thing: sanitizer and tissues. Tell parents from the beginning, if their young player is sick, miss the game–especially in recreational soccer. Overzealous parents in competitive youth soccer may give the child cold medicines and send them anyway. This is up to you and your league policy.

Communication Disorders

Occasionally, a parent will sign up a child who has a milder autism spectrum or speech communication disorder. No worries. Just speak to the parents about the best way to communicate with their child. Give instructions clearly, say what you mean to say:

Say this: “Kevin, run and try to kick the ball into the net!”
not: “Kevin, get on the stick!”

Kevin might well be looking for a stick.

Mainstreaming players with communication disorders means treating the player like any other player, just a little more succinctly.

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