Peer coaches are the players in a group who are willing to take leadership in including their peers. All children, both with typical needs and special needs, can be taught to be peer coaches if they’ve come to E-Soccer for a while. This article is addressed to the 4th through 8th grade peer coaches in our program. However, even the youngest at E-Soccer, age three, can be taught to include their peers. Inclusion can go from something like giving someone a high five to teaching them how to do a drill.
As a peer coach, your main role is being a friend to the other players around you, both with typical and special needs.The goal of having peer coaches is to ensure that all of the children have friends who include them and appreciate them for who they are. If you are a parent of a young child at E-Sports, reading this article could help you with thinking about how to guide your child towards being a peer coach in the future. If you are a peer coach, this article can give you ideas on how to grow in your friendships with your peers.
As a peer coach, you can help your friends by:
1) having goals for them
2) trying to learn about them
3) enjoy hanging out with them
Your friendships will look very different from person to person because people have different needs and interests. This means that the tips listed below may work for some friendships and not for others. That’s the beauty of friendships, you can learn something new from everyone!
1) Having Goals for Your Peers:
At each session, try to think about a personal victory that one of your friends could have, and look for ways to empower them to achieve these victories. Here are six different types of personal victories.
- Friendship Victory: A friendship victory is when a player grows in their relationships with their peers.
- Example: A victory in friendship could be saying hi to someone new, giving someone a high five, encouraging others, learning someone else’s name, or talking about hobbies with another player.
- Skill Victory: A skill victory has to do with making progress with a physical ability.
- Example: A victory in skill, for soccer, may be passing the ball, scoring a goal, or learning how to dribble with the inside of your foot.
- Focus Victory: Focus victories are when players grow in their ability to pay attention.
- Example: A victory in focus can be when a player who likes to run off the field before a drill or game is over stays for the whole drill.
- Sensory Victory: A sensory victory has to do with how a player responds to their surroundings. A player may be sensitive towards loud sounds, crowds, or touch. A victory would be either the player growing in being able to handle these sensitivities more or in the environment around them changing to accommodate that player.
- Example: Your friend may not be comfortable with the big group, but it is a sensory victory if a player is able to play a game with a peer coach and an assistant coach outside of the group. It is also a sensory victory if for one drill students are quieter than in the other drills so that students with sensitive hearing can join.
- Communication Victory: A communication victory can happen when a player whose communication style is different from the others is able to be understood because the other players learned their communication style.
- Example: Communication victories happen when players and coaches who previously could not understand one another are able to understand what the other person is trying to say. A player who, after a few conversations, is able to understand some instructions that they could not before has had a communication victory.
- Confidence Victory: Confidence victories are when players overcome insecurities that they have and are proud to be themselves.
- Example: A confidence victory could be if a player feels discouraged about trying to do an activity because they were insecure about their skills, but then they keep trying and don’t compare their performance with others.
2) Learning About Your Peers
Getting to know someone is like an adventure, because every person is different. In order to learn about someone, you need to ask questions, listen, and be patient. Sometimes it could take awhile for your peers to let you know more about them. With some peers, it can be hard to communicate and you may need to learn your friend’s form of communication before you can get to know them. To learn these things, you’ll need a learner’s attitude and a genuine interest in your friends.
- Learner’s Attitude:
- Seeing any challenges in a friendship as learning opportunities. Seeing that people of all abilities and backgrounds have something valuable to teach each other.
- Learn about your needs and their needs:
- What are your needs in a friendship? When you know your own needs, you can ask others to help you meet those needs and you will be more understanding of their needs. Do you need quiet? Do you need smiles? Do you need hugs? Do you need encouragement? Do you need others to be patient with you, to be forgiving? Do you need others to appreciate you for who you are?
- What is your friend’s communication style? For example, do they communicate with their voice, with a tablet, with their facial expressions or with their hand signals?
- What does your friend need to feel comfortable and confident? Do they need quiet and calm? Encouragement? High fives? Hug? Personal space? You going on a walk with them and an assistant coach as they take a break from the big group?
- What does your friend need to learn a new drill or game? Someone to demonstrate it for them? Someone holding their hand? Encouragement? Repetition (repeating instructions and practicing the drill)? Patience?
- Take an interest in your friends, and share your interests with them too. Here are some topics you could talk about together:
- Other Interests
3) Hanging Out
Spending time outside of E-Sports is what makes these peer friendships become lifelong friendships. Ask your parents to help you plan a hang out with one of your peers at E-Soccer or to plan play dates with all of the kids in your group. Many of our current head coaches and assistant coaches at E-Sports used to be peer coaches when they were kids. They spent time building their friendships outside of E-Sports and now are still friends with many of their former peers at E-Soccer. See what your peers are into doing together and find ways to make it inclusive so that both the children with special needs and the children with typical needs can hang out together.
- Activities to do together outside of E-Sports:
- Inclusion Tips:
- For loud/chaotic situations like karaoke, a movie, or a birthday party, host the event at your house. Offer ear plugs, and have a sensory space in another area of the house where it is quiet and there are other activities to do like drawing, puzzle making, board games, etc.
- If you are planning a one-on-one hang out with one of your peers with special needs, ask them or their parents what they would want to do together. Invite them to join you doing something you like to do as well. Maybe you both have a similar interest, like video games, and can do that together!
If you need any extra support with learning how to be a friend to your peers, or if you have any questions or concerns, you can always ask an assistant coach or a head coach for help. Being a peer coach is a great way to make new friends, learn about leadership, and grow into someone who knows how to include and appreciate all people.
Check out our #MyExceptionalStory articles to read about the impact of our coaches, both on the kids at E-Sports and on the coaches themselves!