Para-SPLISS: Sport Policy factors Leading to International Para-Sporting Success

Para-SPLISS project purpose

The primary aim of this research program is to develop global understanding surrounding the factors optimising the successful development of elite Paralympic athletes both at the national elite sport system (research project 1), as well as at a sport-specific level (research project 2). The intention is to use this knowledge to inform national policy makers working towards improving the elite sporting climate in which Paralympic athletes train and develop as well as towards improving the success of their country in international Para-sport competitions.

Through engagement of key para-sport stakeholders, Para-SPLISS aims to develop an international network providing a communication platform that:

  1. Strengthens relationships between governments, researchers and actors of the Paralympic movement.
  2. Encourages knowledge sharing on best management practices towards the development of (elite) para-sport.

Supported by the SPLISS consortium and thanks to the effort of a diverse group of people over the period 2013-2015, the Para-SPLISS team was able to launch the project in April 2016. Para-SPLISS is currently supported by two complementary PhD projects.


PhD Project 1 – Developing a national policy framework for assessing factors influencing a country’s Paralympic success.

The first PhD project commenced in April 2015 at Victoria University in Melbourne (Australia) and is responsible for the development, validation and testing in an empirical environment of the Para-SPLISS framework.

The purpose of this research project is to identify and analyse the key drivers of effective national elite sport systems that contribute to a nation’s overall success in Paralympic competitions.

Two specific research aims have been set:

  1. To identify the key policy success factors which contribute to a nation’s Paralympic success,
  2. To identify the key contextual factors which affect the effectiveness of elite sport policies in the para-sport environment.

The long-term intention of this project (beyond the scope of this 3-year PhD) is to apply the Para-SPLISS framework in different countries to evaluate national sport policies developed and implemented to increase the country’s chances for Paralympic success.

A key aspect of this research is its inclusive methodology, which will be monitored through consultations with the Para-SPLISS advisory committee.

Project 1 research team:

Aurélie Pankowiak, PhD Candidate (Victoria University, Mebourne)

Prof. Dr. Hans Westerbeek, Principlal Supervisor (Victoria University, Mebourne)

Dr. Camilla Brockett, Associate Supervisor (Victoria University, Melbourne)

Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher, External Supervisor (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

For more information about this project, please contact Aurélie Pankowiak:    


PhD Project 2 – Building Athletes Pathways in Paralympic Sports: explaining individual sporting success.

The second PhD project is being developed at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). The main aim is to examine the sport policy factors that influence the Paralympic athlete pathways by identifying the different stages of Paralympic athletes’ attraction, retention, talent ID/development and mastery/perfection stage.

Two specific research aims have been set:

  1. To identify systems and structures to optimise Paralympic athlete development pathways, sport and impairment specific;
  2. To understanding the relationship between macro/meso/micro level influencing factors and sporting success.

A conceptual model “Paralympic Athlete Pathways” will be developed focusing on sport and impairment specificity. The model will be validated and tested in an empirical environment. The implementation of the factors will be examined and compared in a comparative case study to explain individual sporting success in Paralympic sports.

Project 2 research team:

 Jacqueline Patatas, PhD Candidate (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher, Supervisor (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

For more information about this project, please contact Jacqueline Patatas: 


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