Tagged with: disabilities participation sports
Sport is taken very seriously by our society with enormous financial rewards available to those that reach its highest levels of achievement. Yet the vast majority of us – with or without disabilities – will never come close to reaching those standards. Our participation in sports is almost certainly for other reasons; whether it is fun, friendship or fitness, understanding these motives and then shaping programs around them will likely determine the degree of personal success that a young athlete experiences. There is, of course, a tendency in our sports culture to evaluate success using a win-loss record. While this emphasis is understandable for professional athletes and teams; to what degree should its influence apply to children with disabilities?
The inherent structure of many games is built around winning or losing and to deny that would defeat the purpose of some of these games. We should never assume that young athletes with disabilities are any less driven by the desire to win a game. The passion for competition is joyfully evident at so many events (Paralympics, etc) that to suggest it is not important is demeaning. But for some participants winning a race or game may not be a realistic goal. How can we balance the purpose of the game with the capabilities and interests of such athletes?
Understanding this athlete’s motivation for playing and their aspirations will help guide a coach in matching the type of competition to the athlete’s needs. Sometimes I think that the word “competition” is used as a perjorative to describe unattractive qualities in someone: “that person is too competitive!” But it is the manner in which competition is designed and presented to sports participants that shapes the reactions of athletes that lose the game. Coaches that present competition as a wonderful opportunity to apply skills, build friendships, and a focus for achieving goals, etc, will likely nurture the needs of athletes with challenges. Conversely, using competition to criticize effort and ability undermines this athlete.
Competition for young athletes with special needs: Is it appropriate? I believe it’s all in the manner in which it is designed and presented.