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Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport

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EIS Performance Lifestyle Advisers add to research in Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal

21 June 2018

Members of the EIS Performance Lifestyle (PL) team have carried out research which has been published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal around the transitional experiences of elite para-athletes at the end of their sport careers.

The research, carried out in conjunction with the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport, was led by Dr Andrea Bundon then with Loughborough University and facilitated by EIS Senior PL advisor and Research Lead Dr Arabella Ashfield, EIS Head of PL Jo Harrison and EIS PL Paralympic Lead Emily Hunton.

Performance Lifestyle practitioners at the EIS provide support to athletes throughout their sporting careers across the World Class Performance Programme, by working to develop the necessary skills needed to cope with the unique demands of being an elite performer. A further crucial aspect of their work is to support athletes as they transition from world class programmes into life after sport.

EIS Research Lead on the project Arabella Ashfield spoke about the background to the project. She said: “What we wanted to gain from the research was a greater understanding of the transition experiences of para-athletes and the challenges of our para population when entering the work place. We previously have turned to the familiar literature from the able-bodied world, but we wanted to know specifically for para, paying attention to disability specific factors and also which factors facilitated or impeded their transition from sport. We also wanted to identify areas where EIS can have a positive influence on facilitating para-athletes transition from sport and provide guides for best practice.”

Arabella explained the research process involved in producing the ground-breaking data.

“Andrea (Bundon) looked through the existing Para and disability sport literature and analysis of this showed that a lot of the research had a historical understanding of high performance sport and didn’t reflect the now well-established high-performance sport system for para athletes. Therefore the project which Andrea devised involved a comprehensive survey and follow-up interviews with retired para-athletes.

“The report back from this allowed us a real insight into the athletes’ experiences and presented a number of key findings about transition and how challenging it can be going from a well-supported network of high performance sport into an area where Para athletes may find themselves exposed to discrimination within the work force and facing the emotional challenges specific to declassification from para sport. For us as practitioners it was about learning about the challenges at hand and how we as a discipline, working closely with athletes, can improve our support.

“The findings were passed on to Emily Hunton, the EIS Para Lead within PL to make a plan of how the findings can inform our practice and equip us with greater knowledge to let athletes know the challenges they’re likely to experience. Emily has devised a framework to support the transition process when athletes are faced with declassification and a number of para specific workshops relating to benefits and Personal Independence Payments, best practice of declassification support and managing a disability when transitioning outside of sport and into the workplace.

“This research now helps Performance Lifestyle practitioners support Para athletes with para specific challenges as they go forward into the next chapter of their lives.”

If you would like to access the link to the research published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal, please click here.

If you would like to know more about Performance Lifestyle at the EIS, please click here.