Coaching Sports with Asthma

I’m a former gym class hater. Then I got asthma, took a dance class, and found myself with a degree in Physical and Health Education and coaching two teams (go figure)—one, a kids Special Olympics team for 7-13 year old athletes, the other, the provincial goalball team where I coach adult athletes who are blind/visually impaired. Coaching these two teams are two entirely different experiences, both excellent learning opportunities for me as well, and super fun.

I’m fortunate that with coaching, asthma is rarely something I think about. I’ll usually pre-medicate before practice—especially for Special Olympics where I’m running around with my energetic young roster. Last practice, we played Capture the Chicken (which is Capture the Flag but with a rubber chicken, because rubber chickens are THE BEST) and a game called Groundhog (I think it’s called Groundhog Pick Off actually but, um, I coach kids. Also, one of my athletes’ siblings nearly cried last week and told her mom “I feel bad because we [the girls] beat the boys!” So, yeah, even knocking over groundhogs is not nice, y’know). Sure, I get a bit short of breath most practices, but it’s worth it for the fun I’m having, the fun THEY are having, and—of course—the exercise I get.

I’ve coached very few athletes with asthma, fortunately. And, also fortunate, my athletes have always had just mild, mostly viral-induced asthma. But, when the parents mention something about the athlete’s asthma—or in one case, a sibling’s asthma—I ask the right questions, and they know I “get it”, and I get a decent sense, at least as much as the parent can articulate, about the kid’s asthma. As I’ve written before about a lot of the kids I worked with in daycare who had asthma being among the more athletic of the kids I cared for, It’s held true with the kids I coach: he’s at least temporarily moved on from my fundamental skill development program to join a competitive swim team, at least until they break in December or January. I honestly think the competitive nature of some kids, some people, is just inborn—hey, maybe there’s some genetic correlation of asthma and competitive nature? Kids with asthma are not really held back from sports anymore as they were in the past, but if I’m in the game with asthma, well, they know they can be, too.

With the goalball team I coach, none of my guys have asthma. Where it gets interesting, is that the game has to be played in complete silence, so the ball can be heard. Especially in competition, this means that being aware of my cough, and being super adherent to my meds, or even upping my medications even though I’m just sitting on the bench can be important. If I talk to my athletes from the bench at the wrong moment, I receive an illegal coaching penalty (which has not happened yet—I did get a delay of game once, though). Would I get a penalty for coughing? I don’t think so, but in some cases, it could be up to the officials if they thought It was intentional to screw up the other team. Of course, managing my asthma well is important anyways, but while things like that can slide at practice, I have to be super-aware in competition, just in case—in practice, I’m the one calling the noise penalties, and of course, I can be a bit more lenient there!

For the most part, pre-medicating and having my inhaler with me gets the job done to make it so my asthma interferes while I’m coaching as little as possible. And, for the most part, I can simply keep my thoughts where they need to be: on court.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.