CLASSIFICATION IN PARA SPORT: EXPLORING ATHLETES’ AND CLASSIFIERS’ EXPERIENCES WITH AND UNDERSTANDING OF CLASSIFICATION
Classification is a defining feature of Para sport; however, little empirical evidence describes the experience of classification and how it can be improved. To date, the primary focus of research related to classification has been on the development of evidence-based classification procedures. Meanwhile, the limited literature which has focused on experiential aspects of classification has shown classification to be a potentially negative experience for athletes. As well, classifiers have been identified as important social actors within the Para sport context, yet no research has simultaneously examined athletes’ and classifiers’ experiences with classification. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to elucidate athletes’ and classifiers’ experiences with classification in Para sport. Semi-structured interviews exploring the experience of classification were conducted with 18 internationally classified Canadian athletes and an international sample of eight internationally certified classifiers. Hermeneutic phenomenological analysis was used to conceptualize athletes’ and classifiers’ classification experience. The results of this thesis show that athletes and classifiers experience classification in one of three ways: as a neutral experience, a negative experience, or a positive experience. Positive experiences were seen only in contrast to negative experiences. In the absence of a negative experience, athletes and classifiers experience classification neutrally. Athletes and classifiers construct their understandings of classification by reflecting on themselves (The Self), their interactions with one another (The Athlete-Classifier Interaction), and the classification system itself (The Classification System). Together, these findings provide novel insight into athletes’ and classifiers’ experiences with, and understanding of, classification and may inform for future interventions aimed at improving the experiences of athletes and classifiers.