Making waves: Psychological skills for youth swimmers with disability


There is limited research on sport psychology interventions for youth in sport settings, and the decline in available information is marked for youth with disability in these contexts. People with disability are generally less physically active than individuals without disability, it is important to give youth with disability positive physical activity experiences, to foster their lifelong participation and to realize the associated health benefits. Eighteen youth swimmers (M age = 10.39 years, SD = 2.77) with disability agreed to participate in the seven-week intervention and were randomly assigned to the intervention or control groups. Individual swim instructors assessed each swimmer on water safety, fear of water, swim skill level, and time on-task. Baseline and post-intervention measures of self-confidence, motivation, and imagery use were completed by the swimmers with the assistance of their parents. The individual swim instructors introduced goal setting and imagery to the intervention group in a one-on-one setting in the pool. All of the swimmers completed their usual lesson one-on-one with their instructor, but the intervention group had goal setting and imagery skills integrated into their lessons. By including swim instructors in the program they became more aware of psychological skills and how they could be integrated in a swim lesson, subsequently these instructors can integrate the skills in lessons with other youth swimmers in the future. Results showed no differences from baseline to post intervention for either group on imagery use, water safety, swimming confidence, time on-task, nor motivation for swimming. The swimmers in the intervention condition significantly improved their performance on two swimming skills while the control group improved only on one swimming skill. There were several limitations for this applied intervention for youth swimmers with disability. As a result of these limitations, recommendations for working with this population and improving adherence are described.

Acknowledgments: Manitoba Health Research Council establishment grant to the first author.