Top tips for working with support workers in a sport or physical activity session

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Support workers play a crucial role in ensuring people with complex disabilities have a meaningful experience when taking part in sport and physical activity.

A support worker who works with someone regularly will have built up a relationship with that person, allowing them to understand and interpret their communication and behaviour.

As a coach, it’s vital you utilise a support worker’s knowledge about the person they
are supporting, to help communicate your instructions and adapt your activity so
that it’s appropriate for the participant.

We asked support workers how coaches and instructors can work with them
effectively, to ensure the people they support have the best possible experience.

The top tips they gave were:

  • Talk to them to find out more about the participants they are supporting. Ask questions – even if they seem obvious.
  • Build rapport by having friendly, informal conversations.
  • Take time before the session starts to ask how the day is going so far. A busy morning or difficult journey to the session may impact how the participant they are supporting engages with the session.
  • Give an overview of what you will be delivering. This will help support workers consider how they can support participants in the session.
  • Listen to them. They know the participants best, and can advise on what may or may not be appropriate for the person they support to take part in.
  • Make the session fun and engaging for the support worker too! If they are having a positive experience, it’s more likely that the person they support will too.
  • Ask for feedback from support workers at the end of each session. Did they feel the activity was engaging for the person they support? How could it be improved, and what worked well?
  • Equally, tell a support worker when they are doing a good job of supporting someone to do an activity. Be specific – what is it they are doing that’s working well?
  • Reassure them. They might never have done the activity before, and might feel nervous about supporting someone else to do it, or doing it in front of other people.