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Youth Sports: Abuse Takes Many Forms

Emotional, physical, sexual abuse and neglect surprisingly common

Abuse, harassment and neglect surprisingly common

According to a widely reported 1993 survey conducted by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission:

  • Almost half (45.3%) of those surveyed (both males and females) said they had been emotionally abused while participating in sports (i.e. called names, yelled at, or insulted);

  • Slightly more than 1 out of 6 (17.5%) said they had suffered physical abuse while playing sports (i.e. hit, kicked or slapped.

  • More than 1 in 5 (21%) said they had been suffered neglect while playing sports (pressured to play with an injury)

  • 1 in 12 (8%) said they had been sexually harassed while playing sports (called names with sexual connotations)

  • 1 in 30 (3.4%) said they had been pressured into sex or sexual touching.

Twelve years later, a 2005 study by researchers at the University of Missouri, the University of Minnesota, and Notre Dame University reported in the Journal of Research in Character Education found that emotional abuse in youth sports was still widespread:

  • More than four in ten coaches have loudly argued with a ref or sport official following a bad call (youth athletes said 48% of coaches engaged in this behavior, although only 20% of parents said they did so).

  • Seven out ten youth athletes have heard a fan (most likely a parent) angrily yell at an official.

  • Four in ten youth athletes have heard a fan angrily yell at a coach.

  • One in eight parents has angrily criticized their child's sports performance (another study, this one conducted in Fall 2005 by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, reported that more than 4 in 10 parents had seen a verbal altercation between a parent and their child that they thought was inappropriate).

  • One third of coaches have angrily yelled at a player for making a mistake, a high rate "of significant concern" to the study's authors, who wondered, "What would we think if a third of our teachers yelled at students for making mistakes, and 1 in 10 made fun of a student?"

  • One in seven athletes made fun of a less-skilled opponent. About one in ten coaches admitted to making fun a team member. These numbers suggests that on most teams there is a high probability that one or more of the lesser skilled players has been at least mildly victimized.

  • More than four in ten youth athletes reported having been teased or yelled at by a fan or seeing a fan angrily yell at or tease another player.