The subject of this paper is the sport socialization of athletes with disabilities; the object is to contribute to research and praxis through a review of the relevant sociological literature on the subject. The majority of the research, which uses structural-functionalism, is seen as a set of pioneering attempts to generate reliable information. However, the resulting information is too simplistic and theoretically deficient. The minority of the research, which uses interactionism, is seen as complementing the structural-functionalist studies by focusing on different aspects of the socialization experiences of athletes with disabilities. This research is insightful but it is collectively unsystematic. It is concluded that the study of disability sport socialization is in its infancy and is in urgent need of an adequate theoretical foundation. Three theoretical suggestions are offered to provide such a foundation, together with substantive suggestions for focusing on the themes of institutionalized physical activity and sport, social relationships, social configurations, and social control.
Trevor Williams and Denise Taylor
This study examines the influence of peers as sport socialization agents in the context of a wheelchair racing subculture in the United Kingdom. Using participant observation and survey methods the study focuses on elite and nonelite peer relationships–those between nonelite racers, between elite racers, and between elite and nonelite racers–and the knowledge that is transmitted and exchanged as subcultural responses to wheelchair racing problems. Six main interactional socialization contexts are identified: buying a racing wheelchair, British Wheelchair Racing Association training sessions, local training sessions, domestic races, foreign races, and Great Britain national squad training. Within these contexts elite racers socialize their nonelite peers by passing on subcultural solutions to two sets of problems: those that concern the racing chair and those that concern training. The relationship between the individual and the collective is complex, but peers play a major role in the development and transmission of the wheelchair racing subculture.
Tarja Kolkka and Trevor Williams
The aim of this paper is to introduce a sociological research agenda on gender in the context of disability sport participation. This is done in three parts. In the first part, there is an examination of the differences between the biological and social conceptions of “sex/gender” and “impairment/disability.” In the second part, we offer a critique of the research on gender and disability sport. The point is made that there has been very little consideration of how gender structures the experiences of disability sport participation. There is a need for a more sophisticated theoretical foundation, different theoretical perspectives, and different approaches, and for alternative research designs to increase our knowledge about gender, disability, and sport participation. These are offered, in the third part, in a suggested sociological research agenda focusing on socialization and gender roles, social differentiation and stratification, and life chances.
Trevor Williams and Tarja Kolkka
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the use of the structural functionalist sociological perspective in a disability sport inquiry. A study of socialization into wheelchair basketball is used to show how the ontological and epistemological assumptions of structural functionalism underlie decisions about the research problem and subproblems, data collection method, explanation of the results, and conclusion. Wheelchair basketball is conceptualized as a social system, and socialization as a process that ensures pattern maintenance within the system. A critique is offered of how the perspective has been interpreted in the disability sport literature, its capacity to incorporate variance, and theoretical and heuristic utility for examining disability sports.
Peter Downs and Trevor Williams
This study examines, in a comparative context, the attitudes of undergraduate students toward the integration of people with disabilities in activity settings. The Physical Educators’ Attitudes Toward Teaching the Handicapped instrument was used to test preservice physical education undergraduates (N = 371) from universities in England, Denmark, Belgium, and Portugal on attitude variables previously found significant in North American research. Mann-Whitney U analysis revealed significant attitudinal differences between the variables of gender, previous experience with disability, and disability classification (physical or learning disability); between cross-cultural influences of the Belgian sample and the English, Danish, and Portuguese samples; and between the English and the Danish samples.
Sheng K. Wu and Trevor Williams
The aim was to analyze the relationship between performance and classes of swimmers and between types of physical impairments and medal winners. Participants were 374 swimmers at the 1996 Paralympic Games with six types of impairments: poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, amputation, dysmelia, and les autres. Data included performance times, gender, classification, swimming stroke and distance, and type of impairment. ANOVA and Spearman rank correlation treatment of data revealed significant differences in swimmers’ mean speeds across classes and positive correlations in swimmers’ classes and swimming speeds in all male and female events; no type of impairment dominated the opportunity to participate, win medals, or advance to the finals. It was concluded that the current swimming classification system is effective with respect to generating fair competition for most swimmers.
Sheng K. Wu, Trevor Williams and Claudine Sherrill
The purpose was to examine classifiers as agents of social control in disability swimming. The examination centered on three themes: (a) resources used by classifiers to maintain the authority of Sports Assembly Executive Committee–Swimming (SAEC-SW) of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), (b) socialization to become classifiers, and (c) influence of dominant groups. Data were collected using participant observation methodology at national and international swimming championships and a survey of the 18 SAEC-SW authorized classifiers. The results identified six essential features of SAEC-SW classifiers. SAEC-SW classifiers use their medical and swimming knowledge and experience to control the classification process and to maintain fairness of competition. Socialization of SAEC-SW classifiers enables them to play their role appropriately in disability swimming classification.