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Coaching Athletes With Hidden Disabilities: Using Universal Design for Learning to Effectively Coach all Athletes

Tiffanye M. Vargas, Robbi Beyer, and Margaret M. Flores

The coach serves an integral role in shaping the youth sport experience. For athletes with hidden disabilities (HD), participation in sports may be a negative experience because their coach may misperceive or misunderstand their behaviors. This can lead to attrition, and the resultant loss of opportunity to gain the many benefits sports can offer. However, there are research validated strategies that can help coaches more effectively teach and work with athletes within the educational realm that has yet to be implemented within coaching education. These strategies fall under a framework called Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a proactive approach in which coaches anticipate diversity and plan accessible activities. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to review the recent research on coaching athletes with HD, and to provide practical tips for coaching not only athletes with HD, but rather ALL athletes, in the most effective way using Universal Design for Learning.

Open access

Coaches’ and Recreational Leaders’ Opinions on the Feasibility and Helpfulness of Online Coaching Resources

Tiffanye M. Vargas, Robbi Beyer, and Margaret M. Flores

Within youth sport, there is a clear need for improved coaching education and coaching resources. Most youth sport coaches recreational leaders are generally recruited from the community based on their availability and volunteerism (McCallister, Blinde, & Kolenbrander, 2000). While these individuals often have the best interests of participants in mind, it is difficult to ask/require a volunteer to pursue specific sport training, when they are often already pressed for time. However, with the continued growth of online resources, and the convenience the internet affords, it may be a viable option to offer online coaching resources to assist volunteer coaches and recreational leaders. Therefore, the purpose of this poster presentation is to discuss and explore volunteer youth sport coaches’ and recreational leaders’ opinions of website resources. One hundred and sixteen volunteer coaches and recreational leaders completed an 11 item survey assessing their opinions on website resources. Coaches were from a large Southwestern city and represented multiple sports including football, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, and basketball. Results indicated that overall, participants held positive opinions regarding websites as a resource and a means for providing needed and novel information to coaches. However, they only marginally agreed that a website was the most effective method of teaching coaches and recreation leaders. Participants suggested a preference for learning material through seminars and workshops. Future research should continue to address the feasibility and limitations of online resources for coaches. As well, as technology continues to evolve, researchers should begin to address the helpfulness of social media and smartphone apps as instructional aids and resources for coaches.

Open access

Coaching Athletes with Hidden Disabilities: Research and Recommendations for Coaching Education

Tiffanye M. Vargas, Margaret M. Flores, and Robbi Beyer

Athletes with high incidence disabilities (specific learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional behavioral disorders, mild intellectual disabilities and speech/language disabilities) make up 10% of the population of children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Since these disabilities are not physically apparent, there difficulties may be overlooked or athletes may be mistakenly labeled as unmotivated, lazy, oppositional or defiant. These deficits can be remediated and compensated through the use of research-validated strategies and instructional methods. However, while these methods and strategies are often included in teacher preparation, they rarely, if ever, are included in coaching-preparation. Therefore, the purpose of this hour long interactive lecture is twofold and 1) seeks to review the coaching education research on hidden disabilities, including coaches’ attitudes and efficacy towards working with athletes with hidden disabilities, coaching educators attitudes towards the inclusion of such content within coaching education, and coaches’ preferences for how to receive this information, and 2) to illustrate teaching strategies and techniques that can successfully be incorporated into coaching education. Presenters will use discussion, activities, and research to introduce this new area to coaching education to coach educators and sport scientists/high performance directors.

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Coaches’ and Athletes’ Perceptions of Efficacy-Enhancing Techniques

Tiffanye M. Vargas-Tonsing, Nicholas D. Myers, and Deborah L. Feltz

Previous research has offered insight into coaches’ perceptions of various efficacy-enhancing techniques but not athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ techniques. The purpose of the present research was to compare coaches’ and athletes’ perceptions of efficacy enhancing techniques. Male (n = 29) and female (n = 49) baseball, basketball, softball, and soccer coaches and teams were surveyed from Division II and III collegiate programs. Results found that the strategies that coaches perceived they used most, as well as were the most effective, were instruction-drilling, acting confident themselves, and encouraging positive talk. Athletes had similar perceptions to their coaches regarding coaches’ use and effectiveness of efficacy techniques. However, closer examination revealed coaches’ and athletes’ mean perceptions of these techniques to vary among levels of congruence and incongruence. Exploratory analyses were also conducted on coaches’ and athletes’ perceptions by gender.

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An Exploratory Assessment of Sociocultural Attitudes and Appearance Comparison Among Athletes With Physical Disabilities

Alexandra M. Rodriguez, Alison Ede, Leilani Madrigal, Tiffanye Vargas, and Christy Greenleaf

This study aimed to assess the internalization of sociocultural attitudes and appearance comparison among U.S. athletes with physical disabilities. Female (n = 19) and male (n = 25) athletes between the ages of 18 and 73 years completed a quantitative survey along with two exploratory open-ended questions related to body appearance and influencers. Results showed significant correlations between internalization of the thin and low-body-fat ideal and appearance comparison (r = .55, p < .05) and internalization of the muscular ideal and appearance comparison (r = .76, p < .05) among women. For men, results showed a significant association between internalization of the muscular ideal and appearance comparison (r = .52, p < .05). The findings prompt further investigation of whether appearance comparison and internalization influence body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among athletes with physical disabilities.

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Examining Youth American Football Coaches’ Knowledge of, and Attitudes Toward, Sport Concussions

Sean H. Kerr, Tiffanye M. Vargas, Mimi Nakajima, and Jim Becker

The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine youth American football coaches and their knowledge of, and attitudes toward, sport concussions. Coaches (n = 103) were recruited from a randomized sample of Pop Warner leagues within a large Western state to complete the Rosenbaum Concussion Knowledge and Attitudes Survey. Coaches ranged from 25–75 years of age and were coaching youth athletes ranging from 6–14 years of age. Coaches scored in the 80th percentile on concussion knowledge, and in the 85th percentile on concussion attitudes. However, coaches were lacking in some areas of concussion knowledge such as concussion symptomology. There was also a statistically significant positive correlation between coaches’ scores on the Concussion Knowledge Index and the Concussion Attitudes Index, r = .43, p < .01. The results of this research indicate that while youth sport coaches report basic knowledge of concussions, there remain gaps in their education. This highlights the need for research to review current coaching curriculum, observe actual coaching behaviors, and to determine best practices for teaching coaches.

Open access

Volunteer Youth Sport Coaches’ Efficacy Beliefs for Working with Athletes with ADHD

Tiffanye M. Vargas-Tonsing, Margaret Flores, and Robbi Beyer

The prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is between 2%-10% of children (Center for Disease Control, 2003). Participation in organized sports is beneficial to children with ADHD by increasing self-esteem, self-efficacy, peer acceptance, and social skills (Armstrong & Drabman, 2004; Bagwell, Brooke, Pelham, and Hoza, 2001). Little research exists as to preparation for youth sport coaches with regard to coaching athletes with ADHD. The study’s purpose was to investigate coaches’ efficacy beliefs for coaching athletes with ADHD. Two hundred nineteen volunteer coaches completed a questionnaire designed to measure their beliefs. The results showed that overall coaches reported fairly high feelings of efficacy for working with athletes with ADHD. However, results also indicated that coaches reporting experience with athletes with ADHD reported higher efficacy for coaching athletes with ADHD than their less experienced peers. Implications for coaching education include the incorporation of behavior management techniques into course content and the creation of ADHD resources such as weblinks and pamphlets.

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Mental Health and Perceived Stress in Kinesiology Graduate Students

Elizabeth M. Mullin, Anna Bottino, Danielle D. Wadsworth, Steven J. Petruzzello, and Tiffanye M. Vargas

While the negative psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been noted in the general population and among undergraduate students, little is known about the impact on graduate students. We surveyed kinesiology graduate students (N = 272) enrolled in American Kinesiology Association member institutions regarding their well-being. Overall, graduate students reported poor mental health and high perceived stress. Cisgender women reported worse outcomes than their counterparts. No significant differences were found among sexual orientation or racial and ethnic identity. In open-ended responses, graduate students identified both increased and decreased well-being and delineated methods that helped or would have helped their well-being during the pandemic. Faculty and administrators must put intentional effort into recognizing mental health disparities, provide open and clear communication, and increase access and visibility of resources to support the mental health and well-being of graduate students.

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Using Signage to Promote Stair Use on a University Campus in Hidden and Visible Stairwells

Megan E. Grimstvedt, Jacqueline Kerr, Sara B. Oswalt, Donovan L. Fogt, Tiffanye M. Vargas-Tonsing, and Zenong Yin


This study tested the effectiveness of a stair use promotion strategy in visible and hidden stairwells during intervention and post intervention follow up.


A quasi-experimental study design was used with a 1 week baseline, a 3 week intervention, and post intervention at 2 and 4 weeks in 4 university buildings in San Antonio, Texas with stairwells varying in visibility. Participants were students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the 4 buildings. A total of 8431 observations were made. The intervention incorporated motivational signs with direction to nearby stairwells placed by elevators to promote stair use. Stair and elevator use was directly observed and recorded. Logistic regression analyses were used to test whether stair versus elevator use varied by intervention phase and stairwell visibility.


Stair use increased significantly (12% units) during the intervention period and remained above baseline levels during post intervention follow-up. At baseline, visible stairs were 4 times more likely to be used than hidden stairs; however, the increase in stair use during intervention was similar in both types of stairwells.


Motivational and directional signage can significantly increase stair use on a university campus. Furthermore, stairwell visibility is an important aspect of stair use promotion.