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