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Understanding Paralympic Athletes’ Pathways: a preliminary investigation

Book Contribution - Book Chapter Conference Contribution

Understanding Paralympic Athletes’ Pathways: a preliminary investigationJacqueline Martins Patatas1; Veerle De Bosscher11Research Group Sport and Society (SASO¬) - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels/BelgiumEmail: Jacqueline.Patatas@vub.beBACKGROUND: Understanding the development of elite athlete pathways is complex and requires a multi-level approach (Andersen, Houlihan, & Ronglan, 2015). The interaction of these elements is also influenced by prevailing, and long term developed, the local culture, the political system, geography, cultural and historical context that the countries are inserted (Digel, Fahrner, & Burk, 2006; Houlihan & Green, 2007). Several researchers have attempted to outline athlete development frameworks and highlighted different stages (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004; Bloom & Sosniak, 1985; Cote, 2007; De Bosscher, Sotiriadou, & van Bottenburg, 2013; Gulbin, Croser, Morley, & Weissensteiner, 2013; Henriksen, Stambulova, & Roessler, 2010; Sotiriadou, Shilbury, & Quick, 2008; Wylleman, Alfermann, & Lavallee, 2004). However, most of these athlete development frameworks are sport generic and none thus far have attempted to outline Paralympic athlete development pathways. AIM: The purpose of this study is to understand the development of Paralympic athletes’ pathways, sport and impairment specific. This study therefore intends not to identify a ‘one fits all approach’ to athlete pathways, but to identify a set of broad principles that can be adapted to local circumstances in a culturally appropriate manner. The long term goal is then to develop a framework of reference for further exploration.METHODS: A review of the scientific literature is currently being conducted and data were collected from 16 semi-structured in-depth interviews with international Paralympics experts . RESULTS: Through content analysis, the preliminary results showed that Paralympic athletes pathways appear to be shorter than in mainstream sport, where Paralympic athletes normally progress faster through the sport system. Due to this fact, they might not have an efficient pathway of learning, improvement and training, which implicates in the athlete’s development phases. In addition, most of the experts also suggested that the development pathways may differ significantly between athletes with congenital and acquired impairments with regard to the length, duration and entry age. Consequently, these findings illustrate that athlete pathways in parasport are not only sport specific, but also impairment specific.CONCLUSION: With the purpose to develop elite athletes, countries need to improve systems and processes to attract, retain and nurture athletes with impairments. The results suggest that, in order to achieve such goal, better strategies and structures should be developed concerning elite para-athlete development pathways. Further research characterizing the factors that influence Paralympic athlete’s pathways, the policies and support programs involved in different sports and impairments is needed.
Book: VISTA Conference 2017
Pages: 102-103
Publication year:2017
Keywords:Paralympic athletes' pathways, para-athletes' development, para-athletes' career