Developing a sense of competence with regard to one's skills and abilities is an important aspect of identity formation (Groff & Kleiber, 2001). Through participation in sport, one may discover that he/she identifies with other people who participate in that sport and thus may consider the degree to which he/she possesses similar or dissimilar characteristics. If these images are incorporated into one's sense of self, they facilitate identity definition by reinforcing self-perceptions (Groff & Kleiber, 2001). Groff and Kleiber (2001) found that adolescents with physical disabilities involved in a community adapted sports program expanded their sense of competence, demonstrated their abilities in areas in which others did not expect them to have abilities, were emotionally expressive, and experienced a sense of being able to express their true selves. Similarly, Blinde & McClung (1997) found that recreational pursuits for individuals with disabilities influenced physical and social self-perceptions in that participation afforded participants an opportunity to feel what it is like to do different activities, enhance their beliefs regarding their physical abilities, and increase their confidence to try new activities. Sport, however, may pose some threats to identity formation. A strong and exclusive athletic identity may predispose athletes to emotional difficulties such as depression when they are unable to participate in sport (Martin et al., 1995). Additionally, participants who choose to play sports and do not meet any degree of success may develop lowered perceptions of competence, self-esteem and mastery (Groff & Kleiber, 2001). Lowered self-perceptions have been found to result in decreased efforts and increased likelihood of withdrawing from sport and physical activity participation.
A significant challenge for children with visual impairment (VI) is finding opportunities and/or programs in which to participate. For children with VI community sport programs are inconsistently delivered, difficult to find, and often lack instruction and team play opportunities (Groff & Kleiber, 2001). Such program weaknesses reflect, in part, the perception that individuals with VI are not legitimate or real athletes (Martin, Adams-Mushett, & Smith, 1995). The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of athletic identity and examine the relationship between athletic identity and perceived athletic competence among children with VI involved in an organized instructional goalball program.
A total of 11 children with visual impairments (5 males and 6 females) 9-19 years of age (M = 13.27, SD = 3.34) participated. All athletes had a congenital visual impairment with approximately five B1, three B2, and three B3 athletes. None of the athletes had participated in a season long developmental goalball program. Athletes and/or their parents/guardian provided consent to participate in this study.
Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (AIMS; Martin et al., 1994)) is a nine-item instrument used to assess athletic identity. The AIMS contains four snbscales assessing self identity, social identity, exclusivity, and negative affectivity. Participants respond to each item on a 7-point scale with 7 anchored by strongly agree and 1 anchored by strongly disagree.
Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP; Fox & Corbin, 1989) consists of five 6-item subscales of which only the perceived sport competence subscale was used. Wording in each of the 6 sport competence items was modified to reflect the sport of goalball. Each of the six items consists of pairs of statements. Athletes first choose which of the two statements are most like them. Athletes then decide if the chosen statement is really true or sort of true for them. Items are later scored on a 4-point scale with 4 reflecting high perceived competence and 1 reflecting …