Athletes with physical disabilities
Disability sport, particularly at the highest levels (e.g., Paralympics), is becoming increasingly competitive. Athletes with disabilities, like able-bodied athletes, may benefit from working with sport psychologists by learning mental and life skills applicable to sport and everyday life. Researchers have determined that many athletes with disabilities already use psychological skills (Perreault & Vallerand, 2007), desire to learn more about psychological skills (Kirkby, 1995), and have positive attitudes toward sport psychologists (Page, Martin, & Wayda, 2001). Reviewing the role of psychological skills for performance-enhancement purposes, however, is just one goal of the current chapter. Consistent with the major focus of this text, the athlete’s quality of life, health, and happiness are also central considerations that should also be a focus of a sport psychologist’s work. Numerous researchers examining the sport experiences of youth and adults have indicated that sport can provide multiple benefits to individuals with disabilities (Hutzler & Bar-Eli, 1993). The ability to reduce loneliness by developing friendships with other athletes with disabilities is a particularly important quality of life benefit of sport participation.