Influence of the National Disabled Veterans' Winter Sports Clinic on Self-Concept and Leisure Satisfaction of Adult Veterans with Disabilities

By Cordova, Jill; Miller, Jessica et al. | Palaestra, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Influence of the National Disabled Veterans' Winter Sports Clinic on Self-Concept and Leisure Satisfaction of Adult Veterans with Disabilities


Cordova, Jill, Miller, Jessica, Leadbetter, Guy, Trombetta, Sandy, Parks, Sharon, O'Hara, Robert, Palaestra


The Tenth Annual National Disabled Veterans' Winter Sports Clinic took place this year in Crested Butte, Colorado. The Clinic has become a model program utilizing adapted physical activities to aid the rehabilitation of severely injured veterans (Trombetta, 1996). Activities included alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, SCUBA diving, fly fishing, blues harmonica, dog sledding, wheelchair golf, wheelchair basketball, and various leisure-related educational sessions. Several recent studies have found sport and leisure programs to be an important tool for rehabilitation (Dryovage & Seidman, 1992; Fines & Nichols, 1994; Stewart, 1981). These activities fulfill a number of purposes. Activity programs give individuals with disabilities appropriate ways to spend their time, as well as providing an arena to use their skills. In addition, by mastering an activity, individuals with disabilities can enhance their sense of self (Berryman, James, & Trader, 1991).

Riddick (1986) has suggested that psychological well-being can be affected by the amount of satisfaction that is derived from a leisure activity. Several studies have found a positive relationship between leisure satisfaction and overall life satisfaction (Ragheb & Griffith, 1982; Mancini & Orthner, 1980; Beard & Ragheb, 1980). Leisure activities are considered satisfying when they are challenging and interesting (Ragheb & Griffith, 1982). When engaged in challenging and interesting activities, the individual gains a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. This may be the important component to influence overall life satisfaction.

Increasingly, researchers have focused attention on the relationship between sport and leisure activities and self-concept. For example, McAvoy, Schatz, Statz, Schleien, & Lais (1989) found participation in a wilderness trip to result in positive feelings about self in individuals with and without disabilities. Several studies have reported similar findings in adults with traumatic brain injury (Fines & Nichols, 1994), spinal cord injuries (Hamilton, Krauss, Price, Robergs, & Ruby, 1995), youths who are mentally retarded (Wright & Cowden, 1986), and athletes in wheelchairs (Patrick, 1986).

According to Hopper (1986), self-concept may be lower in individuals who have not yet come to accept their disabilities. In order to accept a disability at least some aspects of self-concept must change (Charmaz, 1995; Wright, 1960). Research has found a relationship between gains in self-concept and acceptance of one's disability (Howe-Murphy & Charboneau, 1987; Linkowski & Dunn, 1974; Patrick, 1986). By measuring self-concept in persons with disabilities while in rehabilitation, it may be possible to gauge the degree of improvement that occurs in the process of full and complete acceptance of the condition.

The National Disabled Veterans' Winter Sports Clinic provided an opportunity to examine the effects of sport and leisure activities in an applied setting, and more specifically, the investigation of self-concept and leisure satisfaction of veterans with disabilities participating in the winter sports clinic. Participants were predicted to have significantly more positive self-concepts during the sports clinic, and this phenomenon was expected to continue one month after the clinic. Additionally, leisure satisfaction was expected to increase significantly during the clinic, as well as afterwards.

Participants

Forty-four men with disabilities (age range: 19-70 yrs) attended and participated in the week-long events and completed the entire study. Participants included those with spinal cord injury (n=16), visual impairment (n=15), and amputations (n=13). All participants voluntarily completed the questionnaires.

Procedures

Participants completed three self-report measures which included a) demographic information; b) self-concept; and c) leisure satisfaction.

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