Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Robin L. Hardin

Committee Members

Steven N. Waller, Lars Dzikus, J. Patrick Biddix

Abstract

In 2003, Lakeshore Foundation became the first facility to be designated a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site and is a training destination of choice for elite athletes with disabilities. The purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) explore how an organization became a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site; and (2) explore why elite athletes and coaches are attracted to Lakeshore Foundation’s Paralympic training facility. Lakeshore Foundation was examined through systems theory and stakeholder theory, whereas social construction theory was used in the examination of elite athletes training at Lakeshore Foundation. Case study methodology was used in this study, with semi-structured interviews with 15 participants, observations, and document analysis as the data collection methods of choice. Findings revealed that Lakeshore Foundation’s training site proposal to the USOC offered specific business, facility, and service plans of how it would alleviate the crowded training facilities at other locations and provide a unique service for U.S. Paralympic athletes to train in preparation for international competition. Accessible facilities created an international reputation for Lakeshore Foundation, but Paralympic teams chose to train at Lakeshore Foundation primarily due to the employees’ personal attention and focus toward Paralympic sport. This study revealed that environmental attributes of service quality such as facilities may influence consumer participation, but the functional attributes of service quality are essential to consumer retention. The service quality attributes offered by Lakeshore provided a comfortable and consistent environment for Paralympic teams as they trained, removing the typical daily barriers of access and social acceptance that may have been present at other training sites and centers. Implications from this study with regard to inclusion and integration shed light on how people with disabilities may feel in environments that were designed for an able-bodied population as well as how social acceptance may impact the experiences of people with disabilities.

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