Department of Kinesiology doctoral student Darice Brooks has been recognized with the Outstanding Student Paper Award in the motor development category by the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA). Her paper, “Exploring the lived experiences of people in adapted sports programming,” examined the advantages and obstacles people with physical disabilities face when engaging in the Michigan State University Adapted Sports and Recreation Club (MSUASRC).
Beginning in Fall 2021, Brooks and her research team conducted a qualitative study by interviewing community members and students who belong to the MSUASRC. Specifically, research participants were asked about their favorite parts of the club, prior exercise or sport history, physical activity tracking and overall club interest.
The findings revealed recurring positive themes surrounding the impact MSUASRC has on the lives of its members—all of whom have a congenital or acquired physical disability.
“Without adaptive sports, I wouldn’t have found ways to better my life. My life as a whole, meaning, how to shower better, how to get dressed easier, how to move around easier. You learn these things from people [who] have been doing it longer than you,” said one study participant.
In addition to the physical benefits, the study highlighted the mental health benefits adaptive sports can have for people with physical disabilities as well.
“It [attending MSUASRC practices] is my socialization that I get for the week and it’s really important for me to do that, and to be a part of that, because it just gets very lonely not having some friends around. So, it’s very nice to get out,” said another study participant.
Aside from the benefits, Brooks and her team learned transportation logistics and limited amount of practice time serve as barriers for some of the study participants.
According to Challenge Athlete Foundation, only 23 colleges across the country host adapted sports and recreation programs—one thing Brooks hopes to change down the road.
“I want to understand the organizational aspects of starting a program, compare it to other clubs and be able to apply it to my model of potentially starting a program in the future,” she said.
With over 18 months of experience working with MSUASRC, Brooks learned a great deal about people with physical disabilities.
Most notably she said, “People with physical disabilities sometimes get talked to like they’re kids, like they need a lot of help. They’re not kids at all or even close to being kids and are very capable of all things we able-bodied individuals do just in a way that better suits them. Treat them like they are ‘you’ because they are ‘you,’” she said.
In June 2023, she will present her research at the annual NASPSPA Conference, which will be held in Toronto, CA.
Related news: MSU team, led by Kinesiology Instructor Piotr Pasik, competed in international games in Switzerland