A journey of discovery

They all say doing a PhD is a journey of discovery – both about the topic you are researching and also of yourself.

I have been extremely fortunate throughout my journey to have the support of family and friends. All of whom have provided advice, guidance, motivation and enthusiasm at different stages. Many did not fully understand my research, but I did not expect them to., but just knowing they were there on my sideline, cheering me on was enough.

When I look back on my covid years, it has been filled with this journey, keeping me focused on something other than what was happening around me. Being preoccupied definitely had its advantages – I didn’t have to make excuses for not venturing out off my office. Not being able to meet and talk to my research participants was the big downside to it all, but with online chats I was still able to hear about their experiences in sport and active recreation and get a sense of how these young people with impairments are active and engaged and don’t let their impairments stop them. One day, I hope to meet them in person to thank them for their stories.

I have also come to appreciate what an amazing community we have here in NZ in Para sport and disability sport. Not getting caught up in the day-to-day grind does let you stop, breathe and reflect. People from all around the country, in different roles in different sports and activities are committed to providing opportunities for members of their communities to get out and get involved. It is because of many of these people that these young people are participating in sport and active recreation, and I was able to celebrate these successes – thank you.

It’s also interesting to look at how you as a researcher changes through the journey. Initially I was seeking to learn as much as possible from other researchers around the world to provide a framework for my work. Once I started hearing these stories and narrative about what is being done at grass roots sport and investigated what government agencies are trying to achieve through policy, I realised they do not always align. The challenge for me was to bridge this practice and policy gap and try to identify a solution. But its not as easy as it sounds. Working through this part of the research journey, pulling everything together is like doing a jigsaw puzzle without the outside pieces – you don’t always know how big the picture is and how fits together.

It is this picture building that I am now working on, pulling together all the insights I have gained from different sources, trying to make sense of it all. Ultimately, the plan is to provide guidance for those involved in delivering sport and active recreation for disabled young people to be better informed and have a better understanding of disability and impairment so the opportunities in the future will encourage more disabled young people to be involved.

Very much like one of my research participants shared,

I don’t think there’s ever been a part of me that’s wanted to stop swimming. So no one’s ever had to tell me to keep going with it […]. I don’t get pushed, but I get supported.

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