National Paralympic sport policy interventions and contexts influencing a country’s Paralympic success: a realist-informed conceptual framework

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Pankowiak, Aurélie (2020) National Paralympic sport policy interventions and contexts influencing a country’s Paralympic success: a realist-informed conceptual framework. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis explored key national Paralympic sport policy interventions influencing a country’s Paralympic medal outcomes and the contextual factors influencing these interventions. The aim of this research was to advance conceptualisation of national elite sport policy and programme effectiveness in relation to Paralympic success, to inform research and evaluation on national elite Paralympic sport policy. The Paralympic Games is the world’s second-largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. As competitiveness at the Paralympics is intensifying, governments are focusing on developing and implementing effective national sport policies/systems to optimise Paralympic success. While research frameworks have advanced our understanding of national elite sport policy/systems, these frameworks have been Olympic centric. Disability and Paralympic sport studies suggest that current frameworks may not adequately inform policy in the Paralympic domain. Additionally, there is an emerging focus in the sport policy literature on the need to account for the context within which sporting systems are embedded. However, there is currently no framework in Paralympic sport integrating sport policy interventions with contextual influences. To address this gap, this study followed an exploratory qualitative design and was informed by a realist perspective on policy effectiveness. In this perspective, the success of an intervention (i.e. policy/programme) is dependent on the interaction between the mechanisms underlying the intervention and the contexts in which the intervention is implemented. The social relational and human rights models of disability also informed the research. Twenty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted with national Paralympic sport managers from four successful countries in the Paralympics and who had developed Olympic national elite sport policies: the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Canada. Data was collected and analysed using an inductive-deductive reasoning to identify thematic patterns and relationship between interventions and contextual factors. Findings confirm that existing national Olympic sport policy interventions are also important for Paralympic success. These include, funding for parasport, effective national governance, programmes for participation, talent identification, and high- performance and career development, the provision of and access to trained coaches, facilities and parasport specialised equipment, and Paralympic sport science. However, within these interventions, parasport-specific processes were identified, and two policy interventions unique to Paralympic sports were found: integration of disability-specific and Paralympic sport knowledge in the sporting system; and a national framework for Paralympic athlete classification. Contextual factors influenced all policy interventions and were found at the individual level (e.g. coaches’ assumptions towards people with disabilities), the organisational level (e.g. level of inclusion within a mainstream sport organisation), and the infrastructural level of society (e.g. policies, social policies, anti- discrimination laws). The major contribution of this thesis lies in the developed, realist-informed framework, which proposes a way to integrate Paralympic sport policy at the national level with contextual factors. This framework can inform researchers on how to account for contextual features when studying national sport policy effectiveness in both the Paralympic and Olympic domains. Moreover, this thesis suggests that researchers, evaluators, and practitioners need to account for Paralympic-specific policies and processes. Tailoring policies to the specificities of the Paralympic domain, and considering contextual influences when developing sport policies, could allow countries to gain a competitive advantage in the Paralympics.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1605 Policy and Administration
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords sport policy; Paralympic Games; Paralympics; United Kingdom; Australia; France; Canada; policy interventions
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