Loughborough University
Thesis-2013-Silva.pdf (4.56 MB)

The impact of sitting volleyball participation on the lives of players with impairments

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posted on 2014-02-25, 11:41 authored by Carla Silva
Forbidden to stand aims to provide a comprehensive account of how participation in sitting volleyball (SV) has impacted upon the lives of players with impairments. To achieve this aim, this study uses capabilities approach, a theoretical and methodological framework unexplored in sport contexts but widely appraised in political philosophy as one of the most comprehensive approaches to well-being and quality of life. One of the implications of the use of capabilities approach was the compulsory need to pay attention not only to personal capabilities per se, but also to the contextual elements of the individuals experience in SV. As such, whilst identifying, describing and assessing the main personal capabilities in which participation in SV had a significant impact, the present study presents simultaneously an anthropological account of the SV field in the United Kingdom (UK) as it developed. In connecting capabilities approach and disability sport for the first time, this study contributes to our understanding of the impact of sport on the whole lives of people and to the development of a holistic tool to measure personal development, helping to address an acknowledged omission of such instruments in the academic field of adapted physical activity. In order to respect the pluralism and complexity of capabilities approach, an ethnographic methodological design was used due to its flexibility in combining a plurality of theoretical insights; data sources and perspectives. During the study the researcher performed different roles within the SV community facilitating empirical data collection using the ethnographic tool kit. A key development in this process was the definition of an analytical thematic framework which directed the extensive analysis of the whole data set. A set of ten relevant capabilities were then identified as the most relevant for SV players with impairments, and SV impact on those capabilities described. This study reveals that while the potential to enact and promote capabilities is present in SV context in the UK, it is very dependent upon influential factors operating at a personal, cultural and environmental levels. At a personal level, the enjoyment and expansion of capabilities in players with impairments was very much influenced by the possession of substantial financial resources and previous sporting capital; thus the players who have expanded their capabilities the most were individuals who already possessed a good level of capabilities enjoyment. At the cultural level, while SV field detains important qualities to promote capabilities enjoyment such as an equalisation of the social worth between people with and without impairments, these were often overridden by the political and cultural dominance of an able-bodied volleyball ethos. At an environmental level, the overdependence of Volleyball institutions from the funding allocated by national sport agencies such as UK Sport, as well as the incipient development of SV grassroots stream clearly placed SV in a vulnerable position in relation to external political forces. The most important outcomes of the present study is the identification of life dimensions that are significantly affected by participation in SV as well as the identification of the most important factors mediating such impact. Beyond the fields of disability sport and adapted physical activity, a theoretical/methodological symbiotic relation between capabilities approach and social sciences of sport would encourage those involved in sport to refocus their mission on people and human development instead of on economic and institutional benefits.


Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Carla Silva

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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