Philosophies and Expectations of Wheelchair and Stand-Up Collegiate Basketball Coaches

Article excerpt

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball is the most popular team sport for athletes with disabilities. The sport was developed by injured World War II veterans around 1946 and it quickly spread across Europe. Competitive events began informally in 1973 and more official competitions emerged in the following years. Since then, wheelchair basketball has become a collegiate sport, recruiting top athletes from the junior divisions. Wheelchair basketball rules are in accordance with NCAA regulations, with only a few modifications regarding the wheelchair. Any individual with a severe and permanent leg injury or paralysis of the lower body is eligible to play.

The sport is continually growing from the junior to Paralympic level, and according to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), one of the biggest obstacles may be in finding and training coaches. This statement speaks to the importance of quality coaches to enhancing and building a sport program. In order to create the most effective training program or identify possible coaches, it is critical to first understand the current mentality of individuals in coaching positions. There is very little empirical data concerning coaches' expectations and philosophies in general, therefore, one purpose of the following study was to identify the philosophies and expectations of coaches for wheelchair and stand-up basketball. In as much as the two sports are similar, it seems logical that coaches would share thoughts and ideas about their sports. These findings are relevant for research and understanding in addition to outcome and athletic participation because coaches' expectations have been found to significantly affect athletic performances (Chase, Lirgg, & Feltz, 1997).

Coaches Expectations and Philosophies

The self-fulfilling prophecy theory explains how the expectations of one individual can influence the thoughts and behaviors of another (Merton, 1968). The expectations-performance relationship explains this process in a sport context (Horn, Lox, & Labrador, 2001). First, coach forms an expectation of an athlete based on personal cues. The coaches' expectations influence their own coaching behaviors toward the athlete, which get interpreted by the athlete and influence performance. This process re-confirms coach's initial expectation. The significance of the coach is unmistakable as the process begins with a mere thought transmitted to an athlete by expression, word, or action. Coaches' verbal persuasion can influence; not only behaviors, but also athletes' self-esteem (Bandura, 1990). In general, athletes appreciate their coaches' presence and recognize the influence these individuals have on their athletic success (White & Duda, 1993). Athletes want coaches to push them and demonstrate confidence in them as was explained by athletes at the 1994 Winter Paralympics who stated that without high expectancy coaches, athletes must be completely self-motivated (Pensgaard, Roberts, & Ursin, 1999). Although these are top level, self-motivated competitors, they admit that external assistance is both helpful and appreciated. In addition, coaches with low expectations of athletes, who accept mediocre performances, may perpetuate the myth that individuals with disabilities are not real athletes; whereas, coaches who expect greatness and extraordinary achievements from their athletes may negate the negative stigma associated with disability.

Empirical studies examining coaches' philosophies and expectations are minimal and even less is known about coaches for athletes with disabilities. According to Coakley (2007), most coaches share a set of beliefs referred to as the sport ethic. Sports, at all levels, are about pushing limits and doing more than what was done before. According to the sport ethic, athletes are expected to: (a) make sacrifices for the game; (b) strive for distinction; (c) accept risks and play through pain; and (d) accept no limits while pursuing the possibilities of sport. …