11 Facts About Athletes with ADHD

  1. They know what they’re supposed to do – and they really want to do it. Their behaviors — and misbehaviors — are not deliberate.  These kids’ brains just aren’t wired for impulse control.

  2. They can be amazingly perceptive and self-aware.  This includes about what went awry – after they cool down.

  3. They are more frustrated with themselves than you are with them.  Really. They want to be able to please you!  This can look like lazy (you can’t fail if you don’t try) or as acting out (in frustration with themselves).

  4. Their frustration can sound like disrespect or manipulation — e.g. talking back, tossing their gear or refusing to follow directions.  But it’s not. They’re just more easily frustrated and have immature skills for handing it.

  5. They learn by doing, not watching.  This includes making mistakes.  Let them try. It won’t sink in if they’re standing on the sideline or listening you talk.

  6. Their brains notice everything.  Having ADHD can be like trying to watch five movies at the same time. The challenge is keeping their focus on what you want – and avoiding stimulation overwhelm.  The upside is that they are comfortable in go-time chaos.

  7. They can also hyperfocus.  Every athlete’s ultimate goal, being in The Zone, comes naturally when these kids are interested and engaged.

  8. Their executive function skills can lag in development by three years. These are the tools for avoiding distraction, dealing with frustration, managing time – and the lag explains why their reactions seem so overblown and immature.  (It contributes to social difficulties too.)

  9. They are easily derailed by transitions and changes to routine.  Lane switch, new coach, different line-up, rule change – all can be hard.

  10. They are incredibly sensitive to criticism.  It actually hurts them more, just like differences in physical pain thresholds.  And they can perceive criticism when it’s not even there, especially in front of peers.

  11. They get negative feedback all day long.  This can spark frustration at seemingly minor things.  It’s an especially important factor if you see them at the end of a long day.