Long-term athlete development for parasport athletes: Interpretations and considerations for parasport athlete development


Athlete development has been an area of scholarly interest for many years with a primary focus on able-bodied athletes. Research in this context has addressed positive youth development (e.g., Fraser-Thomas, et al., 2005), skill acquisition and expertise (e.g., Côté, et al., 2003), and long term training plans (Balyi & Way, 1995). Stemming from this, the Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD; Balyi, et al., 2005) has been adopted as the national framework for athlete development in Canada. The overall objective of the model is to promote sport for life and physical literacy, which includes motivation, confidence, competence, understanding, and knowledge to maintain physical activity engagement at an individually appropriate level across the life span (Whitehead & Murdock, 2006). The LTAD model consists of seven stages with an additional two stages for parasport (Awareness, and First Involvement). With parasport athlete development garnering increased research attention (e.g., Dehghansai, et al., 2017), the purpose of the current study was to better understand how the LTAD model is utilised and implemented in parasport settings. Through semi-structured interviews (N = 17), we asked coaches, athletes, and administrators in parasport about their experiences with the LTAD. While the majority of participants appreciated the premise of LTAD, many themes emerged about how the LTAD could be better applicable for parasport athlete development. These themes included: age parameters, length of time in stages, progression through the model, congenital and acquired disabilities, and classification. Considerations of these factors for further investigation of the LTAD model for parasport athletes are discussed.