If you have ever been to an E-Sports session, whether it be E-Soccer, E-Karate, E-Dance, or E-Fitness, you will not only head coaches running the drills, but many volunteers participating in the activities along with the kids. While these volunteers, or “Assistant Coaches,” may receive less recognition or praise, their presence at E-Sports is not without impact. The influence that an Assistant Coach can have on a child, especially a child with special needs, can be very powerful, and help both the child and coach grow and develop.
The role of the assistant coach is to aid the head coach in running the session smoothly and work one-on-one with children as needed. Their role not only involves working individually with children with special needs, but also keeping the kids engaged, creating an inclusive environment, ensuring safety, and helping run the session. Here are some tips:
Keep the Kids Engaged
- Give high fives and encouragement to the children during and after drills/games
- Try to be out of yourself: smiling, excited, energetic.
- Get the children to encourage one another during the activities.
The primary job of an Assistant Coach at an E-Sports program is to ensure that every participant is included in the day’s session. Most of the time, this means that while they aren’t leading the group by being front and center and running large groups in drills, they provide leadership by being a supportive force for each kid. For example, while a head coach at E-Soccer might lead a run around the field, an assistant coach is in the back of the line, encouraging those who are slower or are having difficulty completing the run. They ensure that every child is participating, being supported, and being cheered on. By being in the background of each drill and warm-up, they can ensure that no child is left out, leaves the group, or falls behind.
- Have the children cheer each other on if they’re waiting in line for their turn to do a drill.
- Encourage children to give one another high fives.
- Remember good moments that each child had during the session and be prepared to share it at the end of the session.
Occasionally, an Assistant Coach will be asked to be a “special buddy” for a child with particularly difficult challenges that make it hard for them to participate or communicate with others. While the responsibilities for a special buddy are similar to that of the other Assistant Coaches, a special buddy primarily focuses on including and meeting the needs of the child they are focusing on. Depending on their needs, the two can step out or take a break from an activity or decide to do something else in order for the child to feel safe and secure. A child may need to exit the activity and do something else in order to recharge and calm down before he/she is ready to rejoin the class.
- Work one-on-one with one of the children with special needs. Ask your head coach who you should work with. This is one of your most important roles as an assistant coach.
- Talk to the head coach about tips on working with the child you are paired with.
- Talk to the child’s parents about their needs and how to meet them. Build a friendship with them.
- Look on our website for more tips on working with children with different special needs.
- Be a learner. The child you are working with, the coaches, and the parents all have great things they can teach you.
- Be a friend. Befriend the child you’re working with, get to know them, and take an interest in what they are interested in.
- Encourage the child to have personal victories every week, both in soccer and in friendships. The victory is based on where the child is at that day, so for some children it could be giving someone a high five and for others it could be passing the ball.
- It’s okay if the child you are working with cannot handle being in class for the day. Take them out of the group and play a different game. If possible, bring along another kid. This way all of the children can still build friendships, even if not all of them can always participate in the larger group.
- Ensure that the children are respectful of one another’s personal space.
- Try to prevent, stop or de-escalate arguments between children. It is helpful when the children are focused on encouraging each other. They have less time to get into fights.
- Any physical altercation between players needs to be brought up with the head coach, who will bring it up with the parents.
- Talk with the head coach if a child is being extremely rude to their peers. The head coach can help you talk to the parents if need be.
- Keep all of the kids in sight. Make sure that they safely reach their parents during snack time and after the session ends.
Running the Session
- Go over the agenda or any other material that the head coach sends before each session.
- Arrive one hour early to the E-Sports program to go over the daily agenda with the head coach, set up the equipment, and give the program director time to give a brief coaches’ training.
- Demonstrate and/or lead drills as directed by the head coach.
- Create smooth transitions between drills by setting up the field for the next drill while the current drill is ending.
- Help the head coach keep track of how each player is progressing in their friendships and skills.
- Ask the head coach what they need.
Being an Assistant Coach not only helps me impact some of these kids that I work with, but has taught me so much about what it means to be patient, caring, and kind. I have come to understand the challenges that the kids I work with endure, and respect their efforts to connect with others despite these challenges. It is truly amazing to see a child initially have difficulty with a task (such as learning a new technique in E-Karate) and overcome it through perseverance and support from others. Above all, being an assistant coach has taught me what it really means to be a leader. Not every leader needs to be big, loud, or charismatic. From my experience with E-Sports, children aren’t impacted by the leaders in the front, but the supportive leaders in the back. Having the privilege of being an Assistant Coach has allowed me to develop these qualities, thanks to the great children that show up to E-Sports every week.