Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Paralympic female athletes

    I just read the most fascinating article in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.  The authors did research on good coaching attributes from the perspective of current and retired Paralympic female athletes.  They interviewed 8 Canadian Paralympic female athletes who had an impressive average record of competing in 4 Paralympics and winning 8 Paralympic or Pan Am medals (Alexander et al., 2020) 

    The findings were so interesting. Positive coaching behaviors were those that improved athletic performance or well-being, and included supporting the athletes on a personal level, improving performance by transmitting important and innovative knowledge.  The negative behaviors were those that hurt their performance or well-being.  Those included addressing their gender or their disability inappropriately (Alexander, 2020).  The inappropriate gender references is where I come in. 

    The athletes also had coaching preferences.  For example, some liked their coaches to be creative, others liked when the coach transferred able-body knowledge to the parasport context.  Some mentioned the need for female coaches, but recognizing it would be unfeasible due to their scarcity.  The authors make brilliant theoretical contributions, practical implications and suggestions for future research based on their study's limitations (Alexander, 2020).  I highly recommend you to read the article on your own if you are interested in getting more detailed information. 

    Now to the nitty-gritty.  Some research participants were routinely slapped on the butt.  This in addition to their gender being addressed inappropriately (Alexander, 2020).  The authors cite research stating people with disabilities are more likely to be mistreated, and women are more likely to be harassed (Kirby et al., 2008; Wachsmuth et al., 2017, as cited in Alexander, 2020).  Research also shows gender and sexual minorities are harassed disproportionately in sports (Kokkonen, 2019).  So sexual minorities (think GLBTQIA+) with disabilities are in double jeopardy.  

    As our future leaders in the sport industry, you should not just be up to date with the most recent literature in marketing and management.   You should also read the sociology, psychology, and other sport sciences literature to be well rounded.  It is your job as a citizen of the world to be socially responsible and know statistics like the ones mentioned here.  After knowing they are more vulnerable to mistreatment, I hope you would now be more likely to treat your superiors, peers, subordinates, clients, etc with respect if they have any of the characteristics mentioned here.  I also encourage you to be a proactive bystander and report or intervene when you witness incivilities towards them. 

Alexander, D., Bloom, G. A., & Taylor, S. L. (2020). Female Paralympic athlete views of effective and ineffective coaching practices. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology: Psychology of Sports Coaching, 32(1), 48-63. doi:10.1080/10413200.2018.1543735

Kokkonen, M. (2019). Associations between sexual and gender-based harassment by a coach and psychological ill-being amongst gender and sexual minority sport participants in Finland. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 13(2), 259-273. doi:10.1123/jcsp.2018-0035

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Benavides -

    As I was scrolling through your blog, this specific post stood out to me for a variety of reasons. As a former NCAA student-athlete, and a female, I really resonated with a lot of the points that were brought up in this post. Not only did I find relation to my experience as a female student-athlete, but also to the experiences I have had in relation to paralympic sports.

    To provide some context, I was on the women's rowing team at the University of Rhode Island, where I was coached by Shelagh Donohoe. In addition to her duties as the head coach at URI, Shelagh is also one of the coaches of the USA Paralympic Rowing program. Due to this connection, I had the honor of working out with the paralympic national team a few times during my tenure as a student-athlete at Rhode Island.

    Based on my observation, and the points made in the readings referenced throughout your post, I think that Shelagh was a great fit for the paralympic rowing programs. Not only was she a woman - which, as your post mentions, is a scarcity - but she also was an extremely creative coach with plenty of experience with both the paralympic team, as well as able-bodied athletes.

    I felt upset reading this post and its references towards the way that paralympic female athletes have been mistreated. No one deserves to be treated in that way. Athletes, unfortunately, fall into an extremely vulnerable category because of the relationship with and dependence on their coaches. I feel lucky to have been coached by Shelagh and am happy that she is on the staff for USA's paralympic rowing constituent. I wish that every athlete had the opportunity to be coached by someone like her at some point.

    - Meg Ellis