Identifying Coach and Institutional Characteristics That Facilitate the Development of NCAA Wheelchair Basketball Programs


  • Emily A. Rutland Columbia University
  • Sakinah C. Suttiratana Yale University
  • Patrick Huang Albany Medical College
  • Kimberly E. Ona Ayala Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center
  • Kevin T. McGinniss Southern Connecticut State University
  • Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu University of Pittsburgh



Para Sport, Collegiate Sports, NCAA Sports, Wheelchair Basketball, adaptive sports


Background: Despite national and institutional policies, American colleges do not currently provide student-athletes with disabilities equal access to sports opportunities. Disabled youth who wish to pursue their academic and athletic dreams in college thus have prohibitively limited options, even with popular American sports such as basketball.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics and factors that may facilitate the development and perpetuation of collegiate wheelchair basketball programs in the United States.

Methods: Five qualitative interviews were conducted with coaches and/or program administrators of established college wheelchair basketball programs. Interviews were coded and analyzed to explore common themes.

Results: Thematic data analysis uncovered five common themes important to the development and maintenance of these programs: a) coach characteristics, b) actions to recognize and address equity, c) boosters, d) institutional barriers, and e) network effects.

Conclusion: These common factors are important in the development, sustainability, and longevity of college wheelchair basketball programs and should be considered by those interested in starting similar programs. 

Author Biographies

Emily A. Rutland, Columbia University

Emily A. Rutland is an MD candidate at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a member of the Sports Equity Lab in association with Yale University. She is interested in health equity and advocacy, specifically in the areas of safe sport and sexual and reproductive health.

Sakinah C. Suttiratana, Yale University

Sakinah C. Suttiratana, PhD, MPH, MBA, is an associate research scientist in the Yale School of Public Health; director of community engagement and partnerships for the Office of Health Equity Research, Yale School of Medicine; and a collaborator with the Sports Equity Lab in association with Yale University. Her research interests focus on various sociocultural influences on health.

Patrick Huang, Albany Medical College

Patrick Huang, MD, is an orthopedic surgery resident doctor at Albany Medical College. His research interests focus on hip dysplasia and pediatric orthopedic injuries.

Kimberly E. Ona Ayala, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center

Kimberly E. Ona Ayala, MD, is an anesthesiology resident doctor at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. Her research interests include safeguarding in sport and improving anesthesia outcomes.

Kevin T. McGinniss, Southern Connecticut State University

Kevin T. McGinniss, EdD, is an associate professor, graduate coordinator, and director of sport management in the Department of Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management at Southern Connecticut State University. His research interests focus on sport pedagogy, adaptive sports, and sport administration.

Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu, University of Pittsburgh

Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu, MD, MPH, is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an adjunct associate professor of social and behavioral sciences in the Yale School of Public Health. She is the founding director of the Sports Equity Lab in association with Yale University. Her research is athlete-centered and translational in nature, designed to influence global sport.



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