Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Craig A. Wrisberg, Mark A. Hector

Abstract

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }a:link { color: rgb(0, 0, 255); Special needs sport literature is narrow-focused and generally focuses on the different disabilities of athletes (Howe & Jones, 2006). Additionally, cheerleading is generally researched in terms of disordered eating and body image (Thompson & Digsby, 2004), high injury risk (Jacobson, Hubbard & Redus, 2004; Jacobson, Redus, & Palmer, 2005), and over-sexualization of youth (Adams & Bettis, 2003). While several websites and resources for coaches of special needs athletes provide information for how a coach should feel, there is a lack of empirical research to support these claims (www.specialolympics.org; www.usasf.net). In the present study, a phenomenological interview approach was taken for eight coaches of special needs cheerleading squads. The interviews were thematized to reveal figure themes of: (a) enthusiasm; (b) parents; (c) us vs. “them”; and (d) improvements vs. struggles. Additionally, there were two sub-ground themes of the athletes and outside help. All of the figure themes and the sub-ground themes were encompassed by the ground theme of community.

Connections to previous research, practical implications, and future directions of the present findings are discussed.

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