Over the past two decades the disability sport movement has been growing steadily. One of the most impressive examples relates to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The Games exceeded the local
committee expectations, selling 2.7 million tickets, surpassing by 900,000 the previous Games in Beijing. To provide a sense of the progression, the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens sold 850,000
tickets. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the Paralympic Games the tickets sold out even before the start of the Games. These numbers elevated the Paralympic Games to the third sporting
event in the world behind the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup of soccer.
Despite the exciting evolution of the Paralympic movement as it relates to high performance Parasport, there are concerning statistics regarding the grass roots. Within Canada, a 2012 Standing Senate
Committee on Human Rights report indicated 37 percent of children and youth with disabilities never take part in organized physical activities compared to 10 per cent amongst those without
disabilities. These alarming numbers are linked to the many barriers prohibiting individuals with a disability from participating in sport. The lack of specialized coaches is one of these barriers.
In able-bodied sport, the number of participants is such that we can often draw typical profiles of coaches working at the recreational, developmental, or elite level. In Parasport, it is common to
see a coach training athletes ranging from children to adults and recreational to elite levels, all in the same session. To add to the complexity of the Parasport coach’s role, the wide range of
disabilities within the same sport (or event) requires coaches working with these athletes to not only acquire sport specific and general coaching knowledge common to all coaches, but also to
understand each athlete’s specific disability and its influence on development and/or performance.
Researchers who sought to understand how coaches learned to become coaches found idiosyncratic pathways in which the coaches learned from: experience (i.e., as coaches and/or former athletes), coach
education (i.e., coaching courses and clinics), and especially social learning (mentors, peer coaches, integrated support teams, athletes, and other stakeholders). Based on the studies published and
on studies being conducted by Canadian’s scholars, the purpose of this presentation is to introduce the delegates to the Canadian disability sport coaching situation and to Parasport coach development
from the perspectives of coaches working in this country.
Acknowledgements: Funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Ontario Graduate Scholarship and Sport Canada Research Initiative.