Updated: May 16
🙏 This week, we're pleased to introduce our first footballer - Brooke Hendrix!
Brooke was born and grew up in the USA, but currently plays as a defender for Reading FC (having previously played for West Ham United). She also has ADHD. She's a great example of how with the correct and early intervention and guidance, a neurodivergent child can develop an understanding of themselves, and self-management techniques that will last them a lifetime. Not only have these techniques allowed Brooke to 'get along' as an adult, but they've allowed her to excel in sport - they've taken the power away from the things she might find difficult and given it to the unique qualities afforded to her by her difference.
Brooke was keen to attribute much of her current success to how open-minded, insightful, and positive her mom was regarding her behavioural and learning differences as a child. She didn't gain an official diagnosis until she was 15, but perhaps due to her mom's familiarity with special educational needs, she had already been equipped with an entire self-management 'toolkit'. So when she was officially given a diagnosed, it only served to give her the extra time she might need in exams - the really important interventions had already taken place. The integral role Brooke's mom played in her positive development is clear, and serves to highlight the importance of knowledgeable parents and role models.
I also think the way Brooke's mom enabled her rather than labelled her as a child is really important to highlight. Too often neurodivergent people are told what they are and aren't capable of by those around them, and so they believe it and they become a lesser version of themselves. Essentially they are put in a box and they stay there. I think sport is a great way for neurodivergent children, young people, and adults alike to really find their limits and their strengths in a challenging, but safe environment. It's a place for people to defy expectations. And Brooke has certainly done this.
However, not all sporting environments are safe, understanding, or neuroinclusive, and Brooke spoke to what she thinks could change this. She believes the impact youth coaches have on neurodivergent athletes is huge and ultimately holds the door open or (all too often) closed for them. With a bit more awareness and education, it is Brooke's belief that youth coaches could support and enhance the experiences of many more neurodivergent athletes - many of whom may continue to succeed in sport where they would otherwise have dropped out...
Although Brooke is still reticent about disclosing to her coaches for fear of being 'put in a box', she has told some of her teammates, and she explained how some of the small adaptations they make for her during training and matches have had an incredible impact on her ability to integrate into the team and play to the best of her abilities. It's a great example of how practical neuroinclusion doesn't have to be difficult for teammates and coaches, and how disclosure is key.
But neurodivergent athletes will not disclose until understanding and support is ensured: and that's where Neurodiverse Sport hope to have an impact!!! Brooke's given us a lot of food for thought, and we'll certainly be looking at how we can upskill parents and youth coaches going forwards...
My final question
How would you make sport more neuroinclusive?
➡️ Don't be afraid to send us a message with your answer, or post it on our socials!
👀👀👀 Find Brooke on Instagram @brookehendrix_ 👀👀👀