Funded by: Federal Institute of Sports Science (BISp)
Duration: December 2018 to November 2020
Since 2009, 19 Paralympic training centres have been established in Germany in the disciplines of Para athletics, Para swimming, Para cycling, Para table tennis, Para wheelchair basketball, Para goalball, Para sitting volleyball, Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para ice hockey.
Paralympic training centres are selected locations which provide daily training for A, B and C squads as well as a squad of prospective young sporting talent. The prerequisite for recognition as a Paralympic training centre is a concentration of athletes in a specific discipline in the catchment area of the particular sport. The reason for establishing a new training-centre system was the fact that bringing together a concentration of elite sportsmen and women with disabilities and forming training groups that were even remotely homogenous was becoming an increasing challenge at the existing training locations of clubs at the local level. Nor was there, at the national level, any satisfactory concentration of athletes at the existing training centres of the national federations.
The aim of Paralympic training centres is thus to create the best possible conditions for squad athletes as well as talented young sportsmen and women from Paralympic sports to pursue a successful career in elite sport and, at the same time, to pool resources and use them as efficiently as possible. This means that the infrastructure of Olympic sports is also available for use, along with all its structural elements. In selecting the location of Paralympic training centres, it has always been ensured that a high concentration of athletes with disabilities has already evolved there due to the existing sports structures of elite Paralympic sports.
Subject and aim of the research project
This two-year research project is devoted to the Paralympic training centres and their links to the infrastructure of Olympic sports, including such structural elements as Olympic training centres, elite sports schools, boarding schools, etc., as well as the people working and taking part in the system at the managerial level, the coaching level and the athlete level. The aim of the research project is to examine whether the German National Paralympic Committee’s claim that it makes full use of the synergistic effects between Paralympic and Olympic sport by integrating structural elements of elite Olympic sport into the Paralympic training-centre system has been put into practice on the ground. What is to be examined is the extent to which the sports organisations involved, i.e. the National Paralympic Committee Germany (NPC/DBS) and the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), have achieved the goals formulated for elite sport in their original concept. Of particular interest is the question of the degree to which the training-base system has been accepted and is used by NPC squad athletes. The introduction of Paralympic training centres to Germany has so far had no academic accompaniment. In this respect the research project presented here will play a pioneering role.
The research project is divided into three substudies. The aim of the first, exploratory, phase of the project is initially to gather information about the structural features and elements of all the currently operational 19 Paralympic training bases, as well as the bases that used to exist, in order to be able to draw overall comparisons. The second substudy involves conducting qualitative expert interviews with those responsible for the relevant institutions as well as collaboration partners, for example at the managerial and coaching levels. In the third substudy it is planned to hold group discussions with squad athletes; here, in selecting the participants, account will be taken of the various squad segments, different age groups, different forms of disability and different types of sport (e.g. individual versus team sports).
Applying the knowledge gained
The findings of the research project will provide important stimuli and clear proposals for sports policy and make available specific expertise on management and steering. Building on the results, it will be possible to identify factors controlling the success or failure of establishing Paralympic training centres; and knowledge may be gained, for example, on how to adapt or modify the base system in order to meet the specific needs of Paralympic sport. Adapting / Modifying the combined system of Olympic sport would satisfy the demand laid down in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that persons with disabilities be given equal rights and the same opportunity to take part in all social activities. At the same time, the UN’s CRPD provides for special settings for the disabled, so that one result of this research project may be that certain groups of squad athletes will profit from separate systems (i.e. a system decoupled from Olympic sport).