Development of expertise in Canadian wheelchair basketball players


Athlete development research over the past two decades has largely focused on the development of expertise in able-bodied athletes/sports despite considerable growth in parasport during the same period. Although similarities between performance contexts exist, the developmental trajectories may be considerably different between able-bodied and disabled athletes (e.g., differences in starting age or onset of 'deliberate practice'). This study examined 74 Canadian male (n = 48; M = 22.26 years) and female (n =26; M = 24.20 years) wheelchair basketball players who were enrolled in The Wheelchair Basketball Canada National Academy. A modified version of the Developmental History of Athletes Questionnaire (DHAQ; Hopwood, 2003) was used to ascertain demographic and career information, developmental milestones, practice history, and participation in other organized sports. Descriptive analyses revealed varied training histories and sporting backgrounds in our sample. For example, males first participated in wheelchair basketball (in any format) at 13.58 years (SD = 4.22); 13.22 years (SD = 4.03) at the junior level, 15.06 years (SD = 4.64) at the senior level, and 12.36 years (SD = 3.71) for those who competed in both. In contrast, females began participation at an older age (M = 15.21 years), but at a higher variability (SD = 6.33). Further, 40 participants (54.1%) had prior involvement in other sports (M = 3.53; SD = 2.64), starting at an average age of 8.67 years for first 'other sport' participation (SD = 5.37). These results emphasize the unique developmental pathways of parasport athletes compared to their able-bodied counterparts.