Sport specialization in disability sport: a retrospective narrative approach
LE3 .A278 2022
Bachelor of Kinesiology
Sport specialization is becoming more widespread among youth despite growing evidence surrounding the associated physiological and psychosocial health risks including injury, burnout, and excessive psychological stress. To date, the peer-reviewed literature regarding sport specialization is based entirely on able-bodied participants in able-bodied sport. Examining sport specialization in parasport will contribute to the sport specialization literature with a goal to improve the sporting experiences for those with a physical disability. This project used a retrospective narrative approach to better understand the developmental experiences of athletes with a physical disability as they specialized in parasport. Ten participants completed a short demographic survey and took part in semi-structured interviews to better understand their developmental experiences and to understand what sport specialization looks and feels like in parasport. Interview data were transcribed verbatim by the primary researcher and analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. The findings from this study reinforce the current literature regarding the developmental experiences and barriers faced by para-athletes, while offering valuable insight on the sport specialization process and trajectory of parasport athletes. The sections of pre-parasport experiences, navigating disability through parasport participation, barriers, entrance into parasport, structural factors of parasport teams, sport specialization, and high-performance parasport athletes were considered important for understanding the developmental experiences of athletes with a physical disability as they specialize in parasport. The results suggest that the specialization process of parasport athletes is often fast-tracked and forced due to limited programming, and for some athletes there is a body composition barrier to multi-sport engagement. Moreover, the age of parasport specialization is very broad and it is impossible to set a specific age range for parasport specialization years.
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