(Dis)ability and inclusion in youth sport: The perspectives and experiences of sport practitioners


Evidence indicates that effective coaching and teaching skills are fundamental to creating inclusive sport environments, yet sport practitioners continue to struggle in meeting the needs of young people who experience disability. It is well documented that meaningful opportunities for young people who experience disability to engage in sport and recreation are inadequate and inequitable. Consequently, many of these youth take part in segregated settings rather than integrated programs in the community. Purpose: Given the influential role of coaches in creating inclusive environments, the aim of this study was to examine sport practitioners' experiences coaching in these settings. The goal was to identify inclusive coaching practices with the potential to bridge segregated and integrated sport settings for youth who experience disability. Method: Using qualitative and interpretive description, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 sport practitioners who coached in segregated and/or integrated settings across a range of sports (e.g. handball, sledge hockey, rhythmic gymnastics, and swimming). Results: Thematic analysis of the data led to three themes: (a) (dis)ability and expectations, (b) a part of and apart from, and (c) coaching rewards and responsibilities. The themes represent a dichotomy of opportunities and struggles that occur within segregated and integrated sport settings. Conclusion: Recommendations for future coaching practices are discussed, in addition to consideration of the ways in which incompatible conceptualizations of disability and sport emerge in segregated and integrated youth sport.