Disability Sport Info

High-Performance Sport: Coaching

April 05, 2023 Dr Chris Brown Season 4 Episode 5
High-Performance Sport: Coaching
Disability Sport Info
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Disability Sport Info
High-Performance Sport: Coaching
Apr 05, 2023 Season 4 Episode 5
Dr Chris Brown

In this episode, I speak with Dr Rob Townsend to consider high-performance Parasport coaching. We consider the current state of play, the scope and quality of coach education in Parasport, as well as examples of best practice. 

Below are links to papers referenced in the episode. 

Link to Rob's PhD thesis: https://bit.ly/43mveXd

Link to paper discussing care from the perspective of a highly impaired high-performance athlete https://bit.ly/3U9YZ9n 

Thanks for listening to the Disability Sport Info show!

Please email disabilitysportinfo@gmail.com to share your feedback. I'd love to hear from you.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, I speak with Dr Rob Townsend to consider high-performance Parasport coaching. We consider the current state of play, the scope and quality of coach education in Parasport, as well as examples of best practice. 

Below are links to papers referenced in the episode. 

Link to Rob's PhD thesis: https://bit.ly/43mveXd

Link to paper discussing care from the perspective of a highly impaired high-performance athlete https://bit.ly/3U9YZ9n 

Thanks for listening to the Disability Sport Info show!

Please email disabilitysportinfo@gmail.com to share your feedback. I'd love to hear from you.

Transcript of Disability Sport Info episode, ‘High-Performance Sport: Coaching’


Speaker: Dr Christopher Brown (Presenter – University of Hertfordshire, UK) 

Speaker: Dr Robert Townsend (Participant – Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy, University of Waikato, New Zealand)


[00:00:30] Dr Christopher Brown: Hello, Listener. Thanks for joining me for another episode of the Disability Sport Info Show. This episode will focus on Parasport Coaching and I'm delighted to welcome, despite a 13-hour difference, Dr. Rob Townsend, from the University of Waikato, to the show, who will lend us his expertise. Rob, hello and thanks for joining me today.

What is Parasport Coaching and what do we mean by it?

[00:00:50] Dr Robert Townsend: It's a hell of a question to start, mate. I think Parasport itself, like you need to break it down a little bit. Parasport itself is quite a slippery term. Sometimes it's used in research to describe all types of disability sport. Otherwise, for me, Parasport describes all types of sports that form within the Paralympic movement or have a disability or a disability sport that have a high performance or a performance development objective.

And so Parasport coaching refers to coaches who work in those sort of high performance disability sport. In terms of the current state of play, it's a really good question. What we tend to see in Parasport coaching contexts are smaller talent pools of athletes, often interesting and sometimes targeted recruitment strategies because of that. Limited and or inequitable funding compared to elite, able-bodied coaching contexts and often fewer coaching and support staff.

And with that comes fewer educational opportunities and resources for coaches in those area. I think what's been observable for me in particular since diving into this area over the last few years is that there's been much more awareness, or increased awareness around the importance of Parasport, and the visibility of disability within sport.

And so with that comes heaps of national sports policies. And then with that comes a distribution of funds targeting increasing the number of para athletes within performance pathways. And so I think with that heightened interest in Parasport pathways, there's been a naturally accompanying focus on the development of high quality coaches in those contexts.

[00:02:21] Dr Christopher Brown: It's an emerging field, you know, it's been developing over the last few years, probably fair to say that there's still some way to go to compared to Olympic coaching or you know, for non-disabled athletes.

[00:02:31] Dr Robert Townsend: I would say so. I mean, the first research that came out around high performance disability coaching was done in 1986, so it's not a new area, but I think that we are seeing an increased interest, awareness and visibility of, para coaches in the media, in research, just general in our general cultural sphere. 

[00:02:55] Dr Christopher Brown: And why is that then? What's kind of prompted that increased awareness and focus, do you think?

[00:02:58] Dr Robert Townsend: I think the media's got a huge part to play in that. I was asked this recently on a different forum around what can we learn from the Tokyo Paralympics about coaching.

And I was like, well, not very much because understandably coaches are backstage within the Paralympic movement and athletes are centre stage. But what we do tend to see, and I think this is a legacy perhaps of London 2012. You might be the best person to answer this, but I think particularly in terms of the media coverage of athletes, Paralympic athletes, you know, good or bad, there's certainly increased visibility of disability.

And so I think with that, and particularly with shifts in  national and international policies around disability inclusion, equity, we're seeing a rise in funding and attention being given to Parasport pathways. And so with that, we do need to focus our attention more on coaches and the development of coaches in that context.

[00:03:52] Dr Christopher Brown: If you want to get into Parasport coaching, what kind of skillset would a coach need to be successful in this field?

[00:03:59] Dr Robert Townsend: That's a really good question with, I would say, a pretty complex answer. I think, and you touched on this with Keon in your grassroots coaching episode, as a coach moves through the coaching pathway, there are different demands on coaches’ knowledge and skills, particularly, let's say at a participatory level where you might be working with athletes with high support needs.

And as the level of participant support needs increase, I think greater demands are placed on the knowledge and skills of the coach. What you tend to see in high performance context is athletes who are closer to or able to approximate to an able-bodied norm and require less adjustments, for example. 

But evidence does continue to suggest that coaching in Parasport domains, places demands on the skills and knowledge of coaches. 

Beyond that, which is usually in line with an able-bodied context. But I think beyond the suggestion to, you know, be a good coach, i.e. you have strong pedagogical and intrapersonal knowledge alongside your sports specific expertise.

The research is starting to come out around high performance Parasport coaching and what skills and experiences you need. And we see that quality high performance para coaches approach their work with what's called a lens of adaptability. They have a sense of access and inequity often. They also have a sense of collaboration, and they provide high levels of challenge and support in equal measure.

And importantly, and this is a relatively recent finding, it might seem a little bit, obvious, but coaches are also responsible for creating an environment or a culture which is, is free from disability discrimination or prejudice. 

And I think you said, how do coaches get into being a Parasport coach? The first thing you need to do is say yes. Many coaches, and this has come through my work and other work in disability sport, a number of coaches avoid disability sport or working in disability sport due to a fear of the unknown and also a lack of confidence or awareness of disability.

You know, and that's something that happened to me or that I'm guilty of, if you like, when I was an early coach. 

[00:05:56] Dr Christopher Brown: It's interesting. It's from a grassroots perspective, but for listeners who are aware, there's an actor called Warwick Davis. You might know him from Harry Potter, Star Wars. He’s quite famous.

He was part of a campaign with Scope called End the Awkward, which is basically about what you were saying. You know, some people have a fear of the unknown. They don't wanna be potentially, you know, causing, upset or offense if they say something incorrect. Don’t wanna be politically incorrect. And so rather than engage with the subject, avoid the subject, which obviously is the worst thing you can do because then that just kind of marginalises a group of people.

So it sounds like it's kind of similar, you know, some of the hurdles that coaches have to overcome if they are going to engage in this field. 

From what I can see and from my perspective, you are a non-disabled person. I'm assuming that's correct and fair to say. So why did you get involved in Parasport Coaching as a subject of interest?

What kind of compelled you to do so?

[00:06:52] Dr Robert Townsend: I got thrown in at the deep end, which again is typical of most developmental trajectories in the sport or in that context. So at the time I was doing my masters in coaching and I was working for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. I worked in community club development and they had a series of inclusionary sessions or inclusion sessions within the local community.

And so I was told that I was gonna be down at my local cricket club and I was gonna be working with an experienced coach and that they were just gonna see who turned up, I turned up to the club, ready to do the session. Absolutely no idea what to do. Never been exposed to disability in my coaching career or in my life mostly. Turned up. The experienced coach never came.

I had one kid turn up. Really high-support needs. Turned up with his parents. And I am amazed that he came back the week after because the experience that I had, it was one of those sessions where an hour felt like three hours. I can't imagine that it was quality experience for him because I just simply didn't know what I was doing.

I came back the next week and I'd spent more time with his parents and with him, and actually learned to speak to him and build a picture of what he can and can't do, and then build the session around him. But that took six weeks, and that was a pretty steep learning curve. And so after that, I removed myself from the disability context.

I wanted to concentrate on becoming a performance coach. And then I ended up circling back and becoming, I was a head coach of a disability talent development centre based at Loughborough, where we had athletes with various types of impairments from physical to intellectual, neurodevelopmental. And I don't think we had any visually impaired cricketers, but we definitely had a couple of Deaf cricketers.

So pan disability, if you like, and then we just, me and a group of coaches would develop sessions and work with them and it spiralled from there. And I ended up spending two years with the England Learning Disability Cricket Squad as a support coach, which was, yeah, some of the best experiences of my life.

So it was by accident and it was certainly characterised by a deal of reluctance and lack of expertise at the start.

[00:08:52] Dr Christopher Brown: How common do you think that experience is for other coaches now? Not exactly the same, obviously, but in terms of, you know, it wasn't necessarily part of the career plan from the very beginning, get thrown into it, have to learn quite quickly on the job, and then end up actually enjoying the challenge or enjoying the experience.

How common do you think that is? 

[00:09:10] Dr Robert Townsend: It's very common. Yeah. We see that in research a lot. It's quite typical for coaches to work in Parasport because they have a familial connection with disability. And so you often tend to find that you've got people who are really, really skilled in in understanding impairment, impairment effects, who end up upskilling, in terms of their coaching, their knowledge, their sport specific knowledge, their pedagogical expertise, those sorts of things. So that's a really common trajectory as well. 

You tend to find that some coaches will sidestep from an able-bodied context into disability for experience, or to be more cynical as I have had this said to me by a disability coach, that it can be used as a stepping-stone to higher honours. Particularly in, you know, in Parasport. Yeah. I think it, those are common. There are different developmental trajectories for coaches and they are a little bit idiosyncratic, but often they start with a familiar connection to disability.

[00:09:57] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, that makes sense. I think that's kind of replicated in other forms of disability involvement.

You know, if you've got a personal connection or a vested interest, then you're more likely to be involved generally. I think that's a fair comment to make. 

So how do we change the profile of a Parasport coach in terms of making it the destination rather than a step on the way to a destination? 

[00:10:18] Dr Robert Townsend: Yeah. I think all comes alongside how we culturally view Parasport as a legitimate area of high-performance sport. 

And again, I think that, you know, there's been quite a lot of research around the cultural devaluation of parasport. So, yes, it's high-performance sport, but often it's stigmatised and devalued as not proper high-performance sport. 

One of my PhD students is a high-performance athlete with high-support needs here in New Zealand, and she's openly said to me before that her coach has told her that what he thinks of as high-performance, he can't compute that with her and her performances. But she's in the system and she is, you know, for all intents and purposes, a high-performance athlete.

So I think there's a good way to go in terms of legitimating and removing the stigma away from high-performance sport. 

I think that we need proper developmental trajectories for coaches. You know, some of the best coaches that I've ever worked with, the most considered, the most reflective coaches have spent significant time in disability contexts.

So I think that there's a real learning opportunity for coaches who want to take those opportunities in disability sport. So I think we need to sort out the developmental pathway. We need to provide coaches with different developmental opportunities. You know, working not just in disability context, but all this is probably a professionalisation of coaching chat now, but we need to provide coaches with more exposure during their training, and we need to try and remove that stigma that can be associated with disability sport.

[00:11:44] Dr Christopher Brown: So I'm really interested about the stigma piece that you just talked about in terms of, yeah, some people say, ‘oh yeah, it is high-performance sport, however, it's not as high-performance as’ whatever context. Why do people hold this view? 

[00:11:57] Dr Robert Townsend: Well, I've had coaches tell me that they don't want to be pigeonholed as a disability coach, which to me suggests that there is this level of at least felt stigma in the role.

Again, I think it just comes back to the fact that high-performance or Parasport isn't always held on the same esteem as, as able-bodied elite context. I don't know why that is. I mean, you look at some of the performances of athletes on the elite stage, and they're remarkable in the same way that able-bodied ones are so, I don't know.

I don't know how you remove that stigma. For me, I think exposure is key. So we need to expose all coaches, at least coming through tertiary programs, should have some understanding of disability. I could probably count on one hand the number of tertiary programs that do that. And so I think it probably starts there and it does come back to that educational pathway.

Keon’s right. So there are no, well, there are very limited, and we could talk about this for a while. There are very limited developmental or educational opportunities in coach education around Parasport coaching. So at best disability coach education is delivered inconsistently and at worst, it perpetuates really damaging generalisations about impairment.

I'm referring here to those impairment specific courses that we see. So I did my PhD evaluating one of those, and it can perpetuate stereotypes about disability that are, like I say, generalised, misleading. They become prescriptive. So this is how I coach athletes with cerebral palsy. This is how I coach athletes with autism.

And if you take that in any other sporting domain, you wouldn't do that. You know, you wouldn't do a course on how to coach 13 year-old boys. You wouldn't do a course on how to coach girls, for example. 

If you think about the courses that Keon mentioned, they are often half a day or a day workshops, which, in the course of a coach's life, you know, 30 plus years of coaching, half a day isn't gonna make any difference to them in terms of their learning and development. So, pedagogically, they're often flawed and there is this reliance on trial and error. Sorry, I think I'm going off topic a little bit.

[00:13:55] Dr Christopher Brown: No, no. I think you're staying on topic, Rob. I'm happy for you to pull at that thread because I think it's important. So, you know, part of the reason why we, at the beginning, you said why coaches wouldn't necessarily be involved was perhaps a fear of the unknown. And why is there a fear of the unknown? Well, perhaps there's limited education and exposure.

And then we get to the question of why that is the case? Well, again, maybe some sports focus on what they deem to be more important or more high profile for them. So if we're thinking about a sport where it's both in the Olympics and Paralympics, there's more funding and glamour for the Olympic pathway than there is Paralympics, generally speaking, of course. And obviously there'll be some sports which do focus quite well on Paralympics, but generally I think that's fair to say. 

But then we also get that across other domains. You know, women's sport is not seen in the same way as men's sport still. Obviously, it's improving in some aspects, but it's still stigmatised to an extent.

You still see discussions about, ‘oh yeah, yeah, she's a really good athlete, but compared to X, Y, and Z, yeah, you know, not as good’. So it's not a just disability. It sounds like it's across the piece we've got an issue with stigma. And how that kind of affects assessments of performance.

I had a chat with Andrea Bun and she mentioned about how there isn't really a well-trodden pathway from being an elite athlete to becoming a coach. You see, obviously in some sports, in a kind of non-disabled setting that yeah, it's kind of expected or common for those players to become coaches, but for para athletes, it's not really the same process.

Why is that the case, do you think?

[00:15:26] Dr Robert Townsend: Great question. We don't know because there isn't any research on it. All we know is that disabled people, disabled athletes are critically underrepresented in coaching and coach developer roles, which, you know, it's all part of the same pot, isn’t it. If we think that disability is absent from most, if not all, coach education curricular, well, it follows that disabled people are therefore absent from those curricular as either educators or learners.

Yeah, I mean, I dunno what the answer is. There's certainly opportunities for athletes who are either reclassified or declassified and retiring to harness their expertise and to take them into develop into coaching pathways. But as to why that's not happening, it's really hard to say. And you think given the level of investment now in Parasport, that there would be some kind of, and I'm sure some countries are doing this, it's hard to speak too generally because I know that certain countries, for example, Australia, you know, they're putting a lot of investment in their Paralympic programme and they're always searching for new ways to develop their coaches. So it's not easy to speak too generally, but what we have seen, well the trend is that disabled athletes are not transitioning into coaching or coach developer roles, And so yeah, there is that, there's that level of exclusion at that level, and yeah. Sorry mate. I don't know why. 

[00:16:35] Dr Christopher Brown: No, that's part of the answer, isn't it? That's part of the problem, that we don't have this solid base and this understanding of why an issue, as in the lack of supply, effectively, of elite athletes into the coaching world is not happening. And it's just an area that needs to be kind of reviewed and assessed, I think.

But like you said, maybe it's starting to happen in certain areas across the world. Obviously, it's hard to cover the whole globe, you know, and say what's happening across the Paralympic space. But, yeah, I think that is probably part of the issue, isn't it? If you get some athletes who then become high profile Parasport coaches, that then might help to kind of beat the door down and then lead to more people coming through.

And interesting you were saying about the courses, how it's very prescriptive. You know, so you're saying this is how you coach physical impairments, this is how you coach intellectual impairments, and like you said, even I as a non-coach, know that you have to, of course, adapt it and make it suitable for the participants.

How do we combat that kind of mindset in terms of the education? 

[00:17:32] Dr Robert Townsend: Yeah. Well it's separatist thinking, isn't it? In packaging disability as a separate training course, no matter how it, you know, whether it's inclusion training, you know, step models and all that, or whether it's impairment specific courses, packaging them as different as separate.

You are, or you are saying that disabled people are other and disabled athletes are other. I mean, I've argued, me and some colleagues have argued recently on the back of some research within Paralympic context and across Europe, that there's a need to infuse ideas about disability and inclusion into coach education curricular.

That's got some momentum, particularly here in New Zealand, where we've managed to get a research partnership off the ground to try and bring that to life. So what does it actually look like to infuse disability into existing coaching structures? But I understand why NGBs or governing bodies or charities who provide certain training courses, I understand why they would offer impairment specific courses because particularly in elite sport or in the para context, impairment specific knowledge, what we call impairment effects, is really important and it's often influential in directing coaches’ day-to-day training and recovery, as well as athletes’ performance classification and their planning cycles.

The best way I ever heard it put I think was from a physiologist within British Triathlon, para-tri. And they just said that in terms of impairment, yes, it's a consideration, but we're not led by it. And there's a danger that for coaches relying on impairment specific courses, we are being led by impairment effects.

And that obviously there's a danger there because you then generalise. You know, my PhD was an evaluation of an autism specific coach education course and I witnessed able-bodied coaches running round, within a scenario-based learning environment, running around pretending to be autistic so they could be coached by their peers.

I can't think of any other educational environment where it would be okay to act disabled as the means of learning. So that's what I mean when I said earlier about damaging generalisations and stereotypes, but in the moment and in that session, it was deemed as good and progressive and realistic knowledge.

So there's certainly something to be, to be sorted out there. I think in terms of, and again, Keon noted in his interview around how important step models and tree models and the activity inclusion, or what used to be the inclusion spectrum, how important they are. And I agree, to some extent. I do think that, again, if you look at them critically, if you look at their theoretical roots, so step, tree, activity inclusion model, they actually perpetuate an integration paradigm, not an inclusion paradigm, in that athletes are still constructed as this problem to be assimilated or integrated into existing practice structures.

So the actual root cause of exclusion isn't addressed, but are being asked to fit into it these existing practice structures. So, yeah, look, there's a lot to do and it is just a drop in the ocean in terms of what we're doing here in New Zealand. But I think it's worthwhile and anything that can move away from separatist thinking in coach education is a really good thing for the professionalisation of coaching and para coaching, and also for the quality of coaching that athletes receive. 

[00:20:32] Dr Christopher Brown: I didn't know about the example that you had in terms of your PhD. That sounds pretty amazing.

[00:20:36] Dr Robert Townsend: It wasn't just once Chris. I did a longitudinal evaluation over nine months. I'd say it probably happened at about 80% of the courses because that's what a scenario based learning.

So when I say some courses are pedagogically flawed, you know, scenario based learning where impairment is the differentiating factor, those sorts of things can happen. I remember standing next to a football coach who was, you know, fully track suited up and he was acting, he was in the scenario and he was acting autistic, and he started punching me in the shoulder because I was stood too close to him because that's what autistic people do, right?

[00:21:07] Dr Christopher Brown: Wow. Wow, wow. And I don't wanna guess your age, but I can't imagine it's more than 10, 15 years ago in terms of when you did your PhD. So it must be relatively recent. 

[00:21:17] Dr Robert Townsend: Four years! Thank you. Four years! 

[00:21:20] Dr Christopher Brown: There we go. See? I don't wanna guess it and I would be wrong to have guessed so. Yeah. I mean the last, yeah, five years or so.

And that is acceptable and that's amazing. So do check out Rob's PhD for more information. 

So I spoke with Janet Lawson about classification and the episode’s, you know, recently published and it's a very misunderstood area, classification. So how well do coaches know about classification? So if they're, you know, coaching in a pathway and classification rules will change, will the coaches be abreast or the latest changes in classification?

Do they just coach the sport and hope classifications remains the same for the athletes they’re coaching? I mean, what's your kind of your understanding there about the knowledge of classification? 

[00:21:59] Dr Robert Townsend: Yeah. I mean it depends. I would say that in a para context, in a talent development context, coaches are very aware of the demands of classification and are very strategic around classification.

It's coaches at the lower levels, at your community levels, for example, that would be less aware of the demands of classification. But yes, certainly in contexts where funding and medals matter, and most of those things are dependent on how favourable classification is for some of these athletes, coaches, I would say at that level, are very aware. 

[00:22:31] Dr Christopher Brown: So as, as always, it's the monetary and performance demands that lead understanding and knowledge. If we are relying on morals and stuff, you know, in terms of inclusion, we're not gonna get our work done. Basically, we have to kind of compel organisations to think a little bit more what matters to them.

I think if we're being cynical, rather than just relying on a, ‘you should be doing it because you ought to do that as a piece of work’. I dunno if that's a fair assessment to make or if I'm being too cynical. 

[00:22:57] Dr Robert Townsend: No, I mean, let's be cynical. I mean, all the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that both Parasport and coaching in parasport are framed by overt and subtle forms of ableism, right? Which in many ways excludes athletes with higher-support needs, unless, they classify favourably and are in medal contention. So yeah, I mean, yeah, I'm all for the cynicism. 

[00:23:21] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, we're all for being cynics here. We don't have time to talk about it, but certainly if you're a Deaf athlete, you know, the chances of getting high-quality coaching at the elite level is probably limited compared to some other impairment groups because, you know, most Deaf athletes are not gonna be in the Paralympics. So, as we just talked about, medals and funding, it's non-existent really there. 

Alright, well, let's kind of bring the conversation to an end now by focusing on what is best practice in Parasport coaching and what needs to happen for that best practice to be replicated more consistently. Bit of a tough one to end, but I know you've got the required knowledge and expertise to answer it.

[00:23:57] Dr Robert Townsend: Thanks. Thanks. So that is a million dollar question. I don't wanna let you down, but I don't know. It is extremely contextual coaching in Parasport. My research has shown this and is fairly well-known, but coaching in Parasport is framed by discourses about disability. And so what we see often is the assimilation of disabled athletes into high-performance environments that are based on this simplistic transfer of able-bodied principles.

Often we see the minimisation of athletes’ impairments. So there's often this discourse around, well, I coach the athlete, not the disability, which in many ways gives the appearance of been empowering or progressive. But what it actually does, it minimises the disabling aspects of an athlete's impairment, and it masks the way that those practices reinforce able-bodied and disabled binaries.

So, best practice, we don't have enough research at the high-end. I will say that there's some really good stuff coming out of Canada, in terms of quality participation, that probably has some implications, at least for the high-performance para coaching context. 

I'd love to do some grounded research on the coaching process in Parasport, just to get an idea of, you know, what good things are happening.

I suppose best practice links back to the skills and knowledge that I outlined earlier in terms of providing athletes with a sense of belonging, ownership, mastering competence, and some control over the process. Often in elite sport, there is a power imbalance between the coach and athlete. Well, that’s magnified in the context of disability where coaches are able-bodied and athletes are disabled.

So there's another layer of a power imbalance there. So, you know, the research keeps telling us that coaches who are good in that area, they respect their athletes, they create a sense of belonging, they understand their athlete’s impairment, but aren't led by it. And they create, give them opportunities for control and for mastery and support.

I wish I could give you a nice, neat model of this is what best practices is in Parasport coaching. We don't really know what best practice is in able-bodied elite contexts. So yeah, there's much more work to do around understanding coaching knowledge in Parasport and also understanding, the ins and outs of coaching practice in different Parasport contexts.

[00:26:06] Dr Christopher Brown: Well, one more brief question, actually, you just triggered another question. It's the academic in me. You mentioned about how coaches that are not led by the impairment, but kind of acknowledge it, but don't make it kind of the fundamental focus of the whole coaching process. And I just thought, kind of prompted me to think about what's the welfare of para athletes like in terms of the coach para athlete relationship?

Because, obviously, I know welfare is a big issue at the moment in terms of the coach athlete relationship. What's the situation like in in Parasport?

[00:26:33] Dr Robert Townsend: Yeah, interesting. So the student that I mentioned earlier is doing a fantastic PhD on athlete welfare and care, and she's bringing a crip perspective, so she's a C4 tetraplegic.

And so she draws on some ethnographic examples of how she's been treated in high-performance sport and draws on data from other athletes in Paralympic sport to try and construct a notion of what it means to support athlete welfare in Parasport. I won't talk about it now because we'll keep going, but I'll direct you to that paper because there's the stories that come from Amanda, the author, are really powerful and they really give you a flavour of what it means.

And what it's like, or to provide actual care for a high-performance disabled athlete. Often care gets wrapped up in nice rhetoric around, you know, connecting to an athlete, and, a sense of empathy and all that sort of stuff. But Amanda writes about the actual physical and emotional labour of caring for someone whose bladder and bowels need emptying before competition, or whose blood pressure goes through the roof before competition, or who needs showering and it takes them two hours to shower and the time it takes, you know, if you say we need to be at the pool at 9:00 AM for a training session, well, for some athletes that means a 4:00 AM wake up and to do cares, and then to find transport with a carer to the pool where there's no hoist to get them in the pool.

Yeah, there's a lot more work to be done on what it means to develop a system of welfare and care around athletes in disability. 

[00:28:00] Dr Christopher Brown: All right, Rob. Well thank you ever so much for spending your evening. For me, it's morning here, but evening in New Zealand. I think it was well worth the wait to get you onto the show.

So thank you ever so much for lending your expertise and I look forward to catching up with you soon. 

[00:28:14] Dr Robert Townsend: Cool. Thank you. It's a pleasure. 

*** Discussion ends ***

[00:28:16] Dr Christopher Brown: That's it. That's all we have time for. Thanks for listening to another episode of the Disability Sport Info Show. Stay tuned for another episode. Until then, goodbye. 


What is Parasport coaching?
Skills of a Parasport coach
Pathways into Parasport coaching
Improving the profile of Parasport coaching
Coach education
Elite Para athletes becoming coaches
Coach education
Knowledge of classification
Best practice in Parasport coaching
Welfare in Parasport
End of discussion