What is Classification?
Classification provides a structure for competition among athletes with impairments. Athletes competing in Adaptive Sports USA sports all have been identified with one or more impairments that limit neuromuscular, motor, sensory and/or cognitive functioning. Because the nature of these impairments can vary significantly, a system is needed to allow for fair competition.
The goal of the classification process is to categorize athletes so that the difference in performance is related to training and athletic ability, not to the degree of impairment. This is accomplished by combining athletes with similar levels of impairment into categories for competition (classes). It is similar to the process of using weight categories for a sport like wrestling – it would not be fair for a 200lb wrestler to go against one weighing only 80lbs. In adaptive sports, athletes are not categorized by weight, but rather by degree of impairment. Although not a perfect science, classification provides a mechanism that addresses the vast and varied aspects of impairment in order to provide fair competition.
Information about national classification for the different sports requiring classification at Junior Nationals can be found at the U.S. Paralympics website through this link below. Once on the page, you can select to view classes by the sport you are interested in (archery, swimming, etc.) or by the type of impairment you have.
Specific information about the policies and procedures related to classification in each sport can be found on the U.S. Paralympics website pages for that sport. Specific links relevant to Junior Nationals are available through these links:
Who needs to be classified?
All new athletes to adaptive sports need to be nationally classified before competing in events at Junior Nationals. Athletes are required to have classification for archery, swimming, table tennis and track and field to compete at Junior Nationals. For those competing in paratriathlon, powerlifting or shooting, there will not be formal classification required now but instead event management will gather information from the registration form for competition placement. The classification process is different depending on the type of impairment an athlete has. The sections below are specific to those with physical impairments, visual impairments or intellectual impairments. Please consult the appropriate section for you.
Where, when and how is an athlete classified?
The assignment of classes is done by trained, certified, National and International World Para Athletics (WPA) classifiers, who go through years of challenging training and certification. Through this process, classifiers will determine an athlete’s eligibility to compete in Adaptive Sports USA events and place eligible athletes into sport classes according to the sport limitations created by their impairments.
National classification for physical impairments requires that an athlete be seen by a panel of 2 National Classifiers. National classification is available for swimming and/or track and field at many of the sanctioned events around the country. If an athlete is seen by a National Panel at one of these events, they will not need to be seen again at Junior Nationals. However, if the athlete is not classified by a National Panel, s/he will need to go through the classification process at Junior Nationals.
Additionally, if an athlete has been seen but has been indicated a “review status” s/he will also need to be seen again. The “review status” may be issued at the initial classification if the athlete was not observed in competition, if there was a reason the National Panel thought the athlete should be seen again, or if the classification panel indicated a fixed date review for the athlete to be seen again in a certain amount of time based on age or time since injury.
The location of National Classification Opportunities in 2019 swimming and track/field can be found through links on the website pages referenced above once available as well as on the sanctioned event schedule.
What happens at classification?
Athletes with Physical Impairments
For athletes with a physical impairment, classification is a 3-step process.
- The athlete will have a physical evaluation like an examination performed by a physical therapist. The classification panel will assess the athlete’s ability to move. Depending on the type of impairment(s) the athlete has, this assessment may include checking the range of motion of joints, the strength of muscles, sitting or standing balance, and/or arm and leg coordination.
- The next step in the process is called the Technical Assessment. This will typically be done at the same time as the physical assessment. For this portion of the assessment the athlete needs to bring the equipment they normally use (track chair, gloves, field chair, implements, etc). The Panel will ask the athlete to demonstrate how they typically perform the aspects of their sport.
- The final step of the classification process is for the Panel to observe the athlete in competition. This does not involve anything extra on the athlete’s part. It just means the Panel will observe during the actual competition to confirm that the assigned class is the correct one.
Not all athletes will need to go through all 3 steps, but most do. For example, an athlete with an amputation below the knee and no other impairments may be able to be assigned a class after the physical assessment only. On the other hand, an athlete with range of motion, balance, or coordination issues will typically need to perform a technical assessment and be observed during competition.
What do I need to know about getting classified?
If you have not been classified, you should consider attending an Adaptive Sports USA sanctioned qualifying event and see if you can get National classification at it. If not, make sure you sign up for National classification at Junior Nationals and plan to arrive in time for the day of classification.
An athlete may request a classification time slot during the online registration process. Classification dates are listed under the “event schedule” tab.
When you come to classification, please bring any relevant medical information that will help describe your condition. Also, make sure to have with you any equipment you use for performing your sport.
Athletes with Visual Impairments
All athletes with a visual impairment who need a national classification must submit a medical form to the U.S. Paralympics. The most ideal contact will be posted soon as the classification position is in transition. This form must be completed by a registered ophthalmologist. Links to the medical diagnostic forms for key sports are listed below:
Athletes with Intellectual Impairments
Athletes with an intellectual impairment competing in swimming, table tennis, and/or track and field must contact Athletes Without Limits to apply to obtain their national classification: