Creating a positive sport experience should be a priority for any coach, and it’s important to remember that means fostering an inclusive, supportive atmosphere for all athletes. In addition to welcoming young athletes of all experience levels to the team, coaches should make sure their sport program can be modified when an athlete with a disability joins their team.
According to Disabled Sports USA, the national leader in community-based adaptive sports, the goal should be total accessibility for all, from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant facilities, a full range of adaptive equipment, communication within sport, and more education for all.
Disabled Sports USA recommends four practical ways coaches can deliver inclusive programs to continue to break the stigma associated with disabilities and create an enriching sport experience for all.
According to Disabled Sports USA, while sometimes used interchangeably, adaptive sports and inclusive sports are not the same things. Adaptive sport refers to changes made to a sport through specialized equipment, rule changes, or other adaptations that allow an athlete with a disability to participate. Often, adaptive sports programs are run separately from mainstream sports programming. The focus in these programs is on the adaptive athlete. For example, if you’re looking for adaptive sport options for athletes, some possibilities would be wheelchair basketball or sitting volleyball.
On the other hand, inclusive sports refer to programs that have athletes with disabilities participate directly alongside athletes without disabilities. While some adaptations may need to be made to the sport or programming to allow the athlete to participate, such as putting a bright piece of tape on a football to increase visibility for an athlete with low vision, generally these programs promote an environment of independence and encourage athletes to be incorporated with minimum modifications. An example of inclusive programming is having a variety of equipment and different net widths and heights for sports like basketball or soccer.