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University-Based Adaptive Sport Camps as a Model for Engaging Injured Military Veterans in Community Development

Skye G. Arthur-Banning, Barry A. Garst, Young Suk Oh, Margaret Domka

Abstract


As more veterans return home from active duty with injuries or retire with disabilities and seek to reintegrate into the community, adaptive sport programming is an important recreational opportunity. Specifically, improved quality of life, more fluid community reintegration, positive psychosocial outcomes, and overall improved health are all stated benefits of participation in adaptive sport programs for individuals with disabilities. This program engaged veterans or members of the armed forces with disabilities in a unique university-based adaptive soccer camp experience with three main goals in mind: (1) to expose the veterans to the adaptive soccer sports of CP/TBI soccer and blind soccer, (2) to provide U.S. Soccer grassroots coach certification, (3) and to identify talent for the U.S. Soccer Paralympic National Team. 

In addition to facilitating this experience for veterans, we evaluated the camp program based on three main research questions: (1) How do injured military veterans and professionals serving veterans with disabilities evaluate satisfaction in an importance by performance analysis? (2) To what extent is a university-based VA Adaptive Sport Camp a promising setting for learning soccer related skills? and (3) What do injured military veterans and professionals serving veterans with disabilities identify as barriers to participation? 

Evaluation findings indicated that veterans wanted more information about coaching, the students, and additional community opportunities and were not concerned about the accommodations or food choices at camp, further highlighting the importance of the adaptive sport nature of the program itself. Veterans identified several camp elements that worked well in a university-based setting such as student interaction, scheduling, and balance between being a participant and learning coaching skills and would encourage other colleagues to attend in the future. Finally, participants identified perceived barriers to future participation were based largely on travel distance and costs. Subsequently, the programmers have sought to provide more programs around the country with partner agencies and in so doing, reduce travel time and costs. Overall, this programming model has significant promise for growth and has already provided results consistent with positive community reintegration and increased veteran participation in soccer-related activities, which can pave the pathway for more in-depth program analysis. 

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Keywords


Adaptive sport; injured military veterans; disability; resilience; soccer

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2020-10404

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