Examining ‘Inspiration’: Perspectives of Stakeholders Attending a Power Wheelchair Soccer Tournament

  • Michael Cottingham Assistant Professor Sport and Fitness Administration University of Houston
  • Joshua R. Pate Joshua R. Pate, Ph.D. Assistant Professor James Madison University School of Hospitality, Sport, and Recreation Management 800 South Main Street, MSC 2305 Godwin, Room 365 Harrisonburg, VA 22807 (540) 568-7409 patejr@jmu.edu @joshuapate
  • Brian Gearity Brian T. Gearity, PhD Director of Master of Arts in Sport Coaching (fully online available) http://www.du.edu/gspp/programs/sportcoaching/ Clinical Assistant Professor
Keywords: Disability sport, Sport promotion, Power Soccer, Wheelchair Soccer, Familial support


Athletes with disabilities are commonly referred to as inspirational or inspiring (Schantz & Gilbert, 2001). Spectators report feeling inspired watching people with disabilities engage in sport (Cottingham et al., 2014). However, others argue that marketing disability sport as inspirational is problematic. Hardin and Hardin (2004a) and Hargreaves and Hardin (2009) determined that wheelchair basketball players were aware, and concerned, that spectators perceived them as inspirational due to the presence of their disabilities. To further understand inspiration in disability sport contexts, this study explored the concept of inspiration from numerous perspectives on a population with less physiological function than the subjects of the Hardin and Hargreaves’ studies. Employing a qualitative case study design, we sought to understand power soccer stakeholders’ (e.g., athletes and their parents, spectators and event organizers) perspectives of inspiration as a way to describe the sport and its athletes. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews with power soccer stakeholders and three power soccer websites at the league, national, and international levels. The findings revealed that most spectators, including parents, believed it was appropriate to describe power soccer and its athletes as inspirational. However, most athletes and event organizers believed this type of representation was inappropriate. Our findings indicate athletes with disabilities may not believe they are inspirational and have reservations to be labeled as such, but that inspiration can be a marketing tool to audiences in disability sport because it connects people emotionally to a previously unknown event. Governing bodies should consider using inspiration as a marketing tool to generate support beyond existing stakeholders.


Author Biographies

Michael Cottingham, Assistant Professor Sport and Fitness Administration University of Houston

Dr. Michael Cottingham is an Assistant Professor of Sport and Fitness Administration at the University of Houston. His research interests focus on perceptions of athletes with disabilities and the relationships these perceptions have on disability sport promotion and greater societal perceptions of disability. His research on disability sport consumer behavior has been published in outlets such as Sport Marketing Quarterly and Sport Management Review. In addition, Dr. Cottingham serves as the director of Adaptive Athletics, a program that facilitates sports for students and community members with disabilities. 

Joshua R. Pate, Joshua R. Pate, Ph.D. Assistant Professor James Madison University School of Hospitality, Sport, and Recreation Management 800 South Main Street, MSC 2305 Godwin, Room 365 Harrisonburg, VA 22807 (540) 568-7409 patejr@jmu.edu @joshuapate
Joshua R. Pate is an assistant professor in sport and recreation
management at James Madison University. Pate researches disability sport and the experiences of individuals.
Brian Gearity, Brian T. Gearity, PhD Director of Master of Arts in Sport Coaching (fully online available) http://www.du.edu/gspp/programs/sportcoaching/ Clinical Assistant Professor
Brian Gearity is Director of the Master of Arts Degree in Sport Coaching and Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver.


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