University of Waikato (New Zealand) Research partnership supports inclusive coaching practice and disability coach education

A new three-year strategic partnership between Sport NZ and University of Waikato will provide a framework for supporting inclusive coaching practices and developing disability coach education resources.

Dr Robert Townsend, Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy at the University of Waikato has a background in disability sport in the United Kingdom and says there has historically been a lack of resources for coaches in mainstream sport.

“In the past, coaches’ involvement in disability sport has been based on trial and error and completely unsupported. Coaches can feel out of their depth because there is no training and no exposure to disability sport. We also tend to see coaches avoiding working with disabled people due to a fear of the unknown.

“This research is about developing a framework for inclusion in coach education, creating better access to and support for our coaches and our athletes. The key thing, though, is that this is all in partnership and collaboration with the disability sector.”

Dr Robert Townsend, Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy at the University of Waikato says there has historically been a lack of resources for coaches in mainstream sport.

Dr Townsend says the first three year programme is a stepping stone for future research. Sport NZ has a 12-year strategy and the research is closely aligned with the disability plan that was released in 2019. Through the development of training and educational resources and programmes for coaches, a system-wide capability will be built that supports improved outcomes for disabled young people and a more inclusive sport and recreation environment.

Justin Muschamp, Sport NZ Disability Lead, People and Culture is looking forward to working with Robert and his team.

“It’s fantastic to be working with the University of Waikato. They have been doing a great job with their studies on what disabled tamariki and rangatahi need from a coach. This research will help the sport sector to further understand their needs and provide better coaching practices that will enhance the experiences of disabled tamariki and rangatahi.”

PhD student Kelsey Randrup’s research will be in partnership and collaboration with the disability sector.

PhD student Kelsey Randrup will kick off the research early next month. The project will centralise the voices and lived experiences of disabled people and coaches to understand where more support is needed.

Justin Richards, Sport NZ Academic Lead, Strategy, Policy and Investment says the project is a great example of bridging the gap between research and practice.

“In a world where evidence is increasingly valued to inform decision-making, this is an opportunity to directly connect the academics generating the evidence with the policy-makers that can put this into practice. It is an exciting cross-sectoral partnership that will improve the physical activity experiences of disabled tamariki and rangatahi in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Tom Smith, CEO of Halberg Trust says the research is more than welcome.

“The work that Robert, Sport NZ and the team are doing is absolutely vital to building a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities to engage in sport.

“Our coaches need a mix of technical and physical skills to ensure the pathway is there for the disability community. It often just comes down to competency – through education and immersion we break down some of that mystery of a world that some people find a bit scary or don’t know too much about. Education is integral to giving the disabled community access to mainstream sport.”