Addressing the Issue of Verbal, Physical and Psychological Abuse of Athletes: The Foundation Position
A. General Rationale
Abuse is the willful infliction of injury, pain, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment through physical, verbal, emotional or sexual means. Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Moreover, romantic and/or sexual relationships between coaches and athletes are regarded as an abuse of professional status and power. While this paper does not refer to sexual abuse or harassment, other Women’s Sports Foundation resources do. For more information on sexual abuse and sexual harassment of athletes by their coaches, please refer to alternate resources located on the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Web site (www.womenssportsfoundation.org). Click on “Issues & Action,” then “Coaching Issues” from the submenu. In the main frame, click on “Sexual Harassment - Sexual Harassment and Sexual Relationships Between Coaches and Athletes: The Foundation Position.” For additional information, call the Foundation at 1-800-227-3988.
All types of abuse occur in sport as they do in many other institutional contexts such as government, religious organizations, the home and the workplace. Specifically, non-sexual abuse in sport deters girls and women from participating and developing as athletes. The development and implementation of policies regarding such abuse will help create organizational climates in which women and girls can participate and feel free to report such incidents. Setting policy on verbal, physical and psychological abuse is also believed to decrease the likelihood of such offenses. The Women's Sports Foundation acknowledges that abuse occurs in athletics and seeks to prevent its occurrence through the development of this policy and position statement.
Leaders of sports governing bodies, educational institutions and athletic programs are encouraged to formulate, implement and evaluate a policy on verbal, physical and psychological abuse as unacceptable behavior by coaches toward their athletes or by players toward their teammates. The following policy is intended to serve, in part, as a model for sport leaders to adopt and/or adapt in order to meet the needs of their respective organizations. Though the ostensible focus of this policy is on coach/athlete and athlete/athlete relationships, its guidelines and implications include, but are not limited to, other professionals who work with athletes, such as athletic trainers, sports psychologists, officials and sports information personnel.
Reprinted with the permission of the Women's Sports Foundation. © 2008 All Rights Reserved.
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