Coaching athletes with an intellectual disability virtually: A participant-driven approach to developing an online coach training resource


The COVID-19 pandemic forced a dramatic stop or pivot for sport organizations globally. To remain connected with their members, sport organizations, such as Special Olympics, began providing virtual team sessions and drop-in exercise classes for its athletes. However, many coaches or instructors have little to no experience conducting such virtual sport or exercise sessions, or use online conferencing systems. Thus, this project aims to provide an educational resource for coaches to effectively connect and coach their athletes in a virtual space. To ensure that the resource meets the needs of coaches, athletes, and administrators while including relevant academic literature, a set of advisory boards were established and will be referred to as a group, Advisors. The Advisors are guiding this three-phased project with monthly meetings to review materials (including summarized data) and collaborate on next steps. Phase 1 is a set of focus groups with coaches across Canada that have experience working with athletes with an intellectual disability. This phase is the focus of the presentation. Coaches were asked about their experience working with athletes with an intellectual disability pre- and during COVID-19, the resources they have available to them, the resources they wish they had, and the challenges that they face (or did face). Using an interpretive approach to the thematic analysis, results are categorized as Content, Delivery Style, Accessibility Features, and Challenges Beyond a Coach's Control. The results will inform the ongoing Phases 2 and 3 of this project which are to develop and evaluate the resource with coaches across Special Olympics Canada.