How To Coach Adaptive Athletes 12


For those of us in the Jiu Jitsu community, we have all by now seen that many layers which we have fallen in love with, one way or another.  We all have different sizes, backgrounds, lifestyles, and genders just to name a few.  There is also a group within our community that is small, but slowly growing. That group : The Adaptive Grappler.

I  am one of those athletes.  I have been practicing for around 7 years, and last February received my blue belt. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys.  In fact, there has been and still is a ton of ‘ thinking out of the box’ when it comes to getting the most out of my training.  This can be said for any adaptive athlete regardless of what sport to pursue.

I would be lying if I told you that coaching an adaptive grappler is, or will be, an easy task.  It’s not.  I have seen the frustration on my coaches’ faces (even if they don’t admit it.)  Here are two areas that might help.



         The most important thing for a coach to do is be open-minded and  willing to step back from what is the ‘traditional’ way of practice.  Chances are good that the individual you are coaching will not be able to do a handful of positions the “right way’ if at all.  I, for example, have no ability to close my guard, so it’s not in my game.  However, with the help of my coaches I have figured out how to control a person on top without using my legs.  Nine out of ten times a lot of the adaptive ways of grappling can be used by others in your gym.  So being open-minded is Key.



Communication is also extremely important, from both students as well as coach.  It can be argued that it is an important skill for any athlete and coach to have. However, I believe it is of high value for the adaptive practitioner in order to get the most out of their time on the mats.  If an adaptive student tries a move and it is not working or puts them in a worse position, repeating it over and over is a waste of time.  If that’s the case it is time to try something else.  Each player is different in his/her  own strengths and abilities so having a good line of communication is key to finding a game plan that both you and your student can grow and learn from. 


There is a common saying within the  Jiu Jitsu community: ‘Jiu Jitsu is for everybody’ I have been lucky enough to find a great club that truly embodies this whole-heatedly . As the Adaptive Grappler group gets larger, this  will be ever more important to embrace. Whether or not you have an adaptive grappler within your gym, chances are good you are going to come across one or two down the road, as we continue this life long journey doing the art we love.  Hopefully this will make starting that journey easier when that time comes. 




Dawn Kratzer

Guest writer

About the author: Dawn is a blue belt adaptive Grappler with mild cerebral palsy on the Straight Blast Gym International team. She lives in a small town in Alberta Canada. When Dawn  isn’t on the mats, she is working as a civilian instructor with the Canadian armed forces Air Cadet program. Also enjoy taking sports photography of my teammates and others during seminars and competitions.

Instagram: @crazycrippledkid as well as  @PointOfView__Photography for the Jiu-Jitsu pictures i have the opportunity to snap!


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12 thoughts on “How To Coach Adaptive Athletes

  • Jim

    Good points. and very true. Haviang done BJJ from 6/7 ish yrs with CP I can certainly agree with your article. Keep rolling. Good vibes.

  • Ian Reid

    Thanks for this article. I am an adaptive grappler with a mild case of C.P. and it gets very frustrating sometimes my body just does not do what I need it to do, particularly with grips on my right side.

  • April Henry

    At one of gyms I trained at, there was a woman with one leg – the other was missing at hip level. That meant so many positions were not possible for her. But she was an amazing grappler. She saw armbars everywhere. She also was really good at applying pressure, despite not having as much body weight to bring to bear.

    Our coach was really great at including her and modifying things for her. A few of the other grapplers seemed to avoid rolling with her, but I always learned so much.

    I hope to see her again whenever grappling opens up here.

    • Dawn

      That’s awesome!
      Ya it’s werid.. people sometimes don’t know how to roll with us adaptive Grapplers. ;) It’s true though to be open to see the difference and learn from it

  • Leah Wheeler

    Thank you for the article. As an adaptive grappler I can often see the frustration on a coach’s face when they can’t figure out how I could have forgotten what we spent a month working on (neurological disorder that affects memory). I have to depend on “muscle memory training” (which is really just the process of creating a reflex) for many moves, which requires a different type of training, and months, if not years, of repetitive training – something no coach enjoys. And I will never be a star grappler, but I love the sport, and love challenging myself to do something that others might think impossible. Thanks!!

    • girlsingis Post author

      Exactly!! Enjoy the journey! That is the point. We are so happy that you found this article relatable and useful! Let us know if we can be of any help in the future. :) Keep on rolling!

    • Dawn

      I am so glad this article as helped in some way :) if you ever have any other questions – or just want to brainstorm feel free to reach out on instagram!