Attitudes of Youth Baseball Coaches toward Players with Mild Mental Retardation

By Bishop, Paul; Rizzo, Terry et al. | Palaestra, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview
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Attitudes of Youth Baseball Coaches toward Players with Mild Mental Retardation

Bishop, Paul, Rizzo, Terry, Silva, Manuel, Palaestra

During the decades of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, educational and community agencies provided opportunities for athletes with and without disabilities to engage in integrated sport competitions (Smith, Austin, & Kennedy, 1996; Auxter, Pyfer, & Huettig, 1997). Normalization--belief that conditions of everyday life for persons with disabilities ought to be as much like those of persons without disabilities--and civil rights legislation (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Rehabilitation Act of 1973) may have been catalysts by which athletes with mental retardation and other disabilities have been integrated into sports (Block, 1995). Although the matter of integrating athletes with disabilities into sport competitions with non-disabled persons is sometimes controversial, it is likely that opportunities for integrated sport participation will continue during and beyond the decade of the 1990s (Lindstrom, 1992; Kozub & Porretta, 1996; Kozub & Porretta, 1998; Porretta, Gillespie, & Jansma, 1996).

Participation in either segregated or integrated activities or sports is often a decision made by participant, parent, or legal guardian at the time of registration (Winnick, 1987). Children and youths with disabilities can and do play baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, and other sports with non-disabled peers (Bernabe & Block, 1994; Kozub & Porretta, 1996; Rizzo, Bishop & Tobar, 1997; Tripp & Rogers, 1990). Successful assimilation of children and youths into integrated sport activities, however, is dependent upon many factors. One critical factor is the attitude of youth sport coaches toward players with disabilities.

A few studies are available providing information about attributes of people who coach individuals with disabilities (DePauw & Gavron, 1991; Gavron & DePauw, 1989; Stewart, McCarthy, & Robinson, 1988). These studies involved coaches of athletes who participated in segregated sports. Recently, investigators addressed attitudes toward coaching players with disabilities in integrated sport settings.

Kozub and Porretta (1998) surveyed interscholastic athletic coaches. These researchers concluded that interscholastic athletic coaches generally supported the contention that players with disabilities had the right to participate in interscholastic athletic programs. Furthermore, coaches in this sample did not believe players with disabilities would diminish the nature of the interscholastic athletic experience for non-disabled athletes. Data gathered also demonstrated that coaches felt insufficiently trained to coach players with disabilities.

A year earlier Rizzo et al. (1997) assessed attitudes and selected attributes of youth soccer coaches toward coaching a player with mild mental retardation (MMR) on a team with non-disabled players. Results from this study showed that as perceived soccer coaching competence increased, beliefs about coaching a player with MMR were more favorable. Further, as perceived soccer coaching competence increased, attitudes and intentions toward coaching a player with MMR improved.

The purpose of this study was to assess attitudes of youth baseball coaches regarding players with mild mental retardation in the context of participation with and against athletes without disabilities. A second purpose was to examine attitude differences between coaches as functions of gender, coaching experience, and relationships with persons who have disabilities.

Method Participants

A random sample of 500 coaches selected for participation in this study was taken from the population of all coaches (2,146) registered with a national youth baseball organization that sanctions youth baseball in several states located in the southeastern United States. Results of this study were based on data from 119 of 127 coaches who returned questionnaires (25.4% rate of return). The final sample included 90 (76%) male coaches and 29 (24%) female coaches.

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