“It Shaped My Future in Ways I Wasn’t Prepared for—in the Best Way Possible”: Alumni Volunteers’ Experiences in an Adapted Sports and Recreation Program

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly

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Meredith Wekesser Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

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Guilherme H. Costa School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

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Piotr J. Pasik Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

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Karl Erickson School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Adapted sport participation can have many positive benefits for adults with disabilities. However, one barrier to implementing successful adapted sport programs is lack of knowledgeable volunteers who understand accessibility and disability. In fact, little is known about volunteers’ experiences in adapted sport programs. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively examine experiences of able-bodied volunteers in an adapted sport program. A sample of 105 able-bodied volunteers (Mage = 24.28 ± 1.93) completed an online qualitative survey to share their experiences. Data were analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis, and seven main themes were identified. Results showed that despite differences in initial motives for volunteering, involvement in an adapted sport program was transformative and, for some, life changing. Able-bodied volunteers experienced a wide range of benefits including deeper understanding and awareness of disability and inclusion in sport. Practical recommendations are provided for volunteer-based adapted sport program leaders.

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