Athletes Getting Bullied

Coaches can create mental health issues when taking advantage of their power

(RxWiki News) A coach’s job is to make athletes the best they can be for the team, while providing support and guidance for individual team members. However, some coaches might be taking it too far.

An increased number of reports on athletes being abused or maltreated have caught the attention of many. Researchers now believe that athletes are highly vulnerable to abuse, harassment, and even bullying.

"Be aware of the relationship between your child and his or her coach."

Lead author, Ashely E. Stirling, M.Sc., from the University of Toronto, says that the unbalanced power between coaches and athletes could be a key risk factor for abuse. Most parents trust coaches uncritically which could increase vulnerability to abuse and maltreatment, she adds.

Abuse includes any physical, sexual, emotional abuse as well as neglect. Harassment refers to any unwanted or forced behavior by a person of authority. Bullying is defined as any harmful physical, verbal or psychological behavior between other teammates and peers.

The culture of sport might also be at risk for abuse because many athletes believe sexual advances or exploitations are part of the game, Stirling says.

This paper is intended to bring awareness about abuse and mistreatment of athletes, Stirling says. In hopes that medical professionals and sports professionals will have a better idea of how to deal with such situations, she adds.

Jack Newman, U.S.P.T.A. Master professional and C.E.O. of Austin Tennis Academy, says, "Coaches are often times the most powerful entity in a young person's life after their parents. As such, we have a very high level of responsibility to build up students, to help them become citizens of significance.

"Coaches need to be very thoughtful about what they say and how they say it to their students to get the most out of those students," said Newman.

The paper provides recommendations for intervention and prevention methods along with examples of abuse, harassment and bullying.

The report is published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

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Review Date: 
September 1, 2011