Understanding Leadership Behaviours of Peer Athlete Mentors in Parasport Programs
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Most individuals with a physical disability do not participate in sport despite its numerous benefits. Peers have been known to exhibit leadership techniques associated with increased motivation for sport and they play an important role in influencing behaviours of others with a physical disability (e.g., disseminating knowledge of resources). Transformational leadership (TFL) is associated with positive sport outcomes and has been associated with peers in the sport context. Transformational leaders use individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and idealized influence to enable their follower to perform beyond their own expectations. However, it is unknown how peer athlete mentors (mentors) use TFL to encourage and maintain sport participation among their mentees with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to understand the leadership behaviours, particularly the TFL behaviours of peer athlete mentors in parasport. Participants were 11 mentors and 10 mentees who have been involved in parasport. Data were collected through semi-structured telephone interviews. The interviews were grounded in TFL. Inductive content analysis revealed behaviours from the perspectives of mentors and mentees and the behaviours were deductively cross-referenced with TFL behaviours. Mentors recalled their own mentorship behaviours and behaviours of the mentors that encouraged them. Mentees recalled behaviours of their mentors and mentor behaviours they have begun to engage in. Behaviours were consistent with TFL and were generally perceived as the same among mentors and mentees. Individualized consideration behaviours were creating an enriching environment, appropriate peer matching, understanding readiness to participate, and understanding different personalities. Inspirational motivation behaviours were conveying optimism about the benefits of sport, telling success stories, and being a role model for sport excellence. Intellectual stimulation involved disseminating resources encouraging mentees to try, encouraging reducing sedentary time, and letting the mentee solve problems. Idealized influence included showing commitment, having a positive attitude, and fulfilling duties on the team. Negative behaviours speaking negatively about another sport and having unrealistic expectations. The results of this study provide an in depth description of the TFL used by peer mentors in parasport and can be used to inform peer athlete mentorship training programs in disability sport.