“The only disability is a bad attitude”: Exploring athletes’ experiences in a successful sport program for athletes with physical disabilities

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology 2010 National Conference


Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology


Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Previous research suggests that sport participation can have important benefits for youth's physical and psychosocial development (Fraser-Thomas, Côté, & Deakin, 2005). While this research provides valuable insight into the types of positive outcomes that may be acquired through sport, the existing literature primarily focuses on the experiences of able-bodied athletes. Limited research has examined the sport experiences of athletes with disabilities (Martin, 2006). The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of athletes' experiences in a successful swim program for athletes with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight athletes with disabilities and two able-bodied siblings. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and were subjected to a content analysis procedure in which raw meaning units were grouped into salient themes (Côté et al., 1993). Results indicated that participation in this program provided athletes with a myriad of positive experiences. More specifically, athletes' responses regarding the outcomes derived from this program revealed four common themes: 1) redefined capabilities, 2) affirmed sense of self, 3) expanded social networks, and 4) enhanced acceptance. Processes facilitating the development of these outcomes are discussed. Practical implications for program administrators, coaches, and athletes are presented along with recommendations for future disability sport research.

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