The Paralympic Movement is growing and countries have recognized the need to strategically invest in systems and structures to optimise Paralympic athlete development. But for many countries, the organization of para-sport and the elite athlete development pathway for athletes with impairments remain complex and fragmented. Policy development in para-sport has not yet received much global research attention, in part, due to limited visibility and a lack of research funding. The organization of para-sport faces some important challenges, such as integration within mainstream sports, the lack of disability-specific knowledge (e.g. inclusion strategies in schools, recruiting and developing disability athletes), limited coaching expertise and coach education pathway, higher cost equipment, and the level of awareness and recognition in society (Radke & Doll-Tepper, 2011). These elements when combined contribute to the complexity within para-sport’s organisation and development. Overall, strategies and structures to develop para-sport in general, and concerning elite athlete development in particular thus remain unclear (De Bosscher et al., 2008; Radke & Doll-Tepper, 2011). Due to the emerging evolution of Paralympic sports and the constant need for studies focusing on the necessities of athletes with impairments, the outcomes and contributions of this research in general are in both ways, theoretical and practical: – Theoretical: This research will contribute to other Paralympic sport policy studies, by the development of an empirically tested and sport specific Paralympic athlete’s pathways model which illustrates the factors that influence Paralympic athlete’s pathways and the policies and support programs involved in different sports. – Practical: The results of this study will be informative for policy makers, high performance sport managers and coaches in regard to the effectiveness of their policies during the different stages of the athlete pathway; this can be disseminated among all stakeholders of the Paralympic movement.
The main objective of this research is to examine the sport policy factors that influence the Paralympic athlete pathways, identifying the different stages of Paralympic athletes’ attraction, retention, talent identification/development in the sport and mastery/perfection stage. In a first phase influencing factors will be identified and a conceptual model sport and impairment specific will be developed. In a second phase the conceptual model and the identified influencing factors will be tested in an empirical environment. In order to do this, the implementation of the factors will be examined and compared in a comparative case study to explain individual sporting success in Paralympic sports.