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Types of Sports Bully

Types of Sports Bully

Addressing the Issue of Verbal, Physical and Psychological Abuse of Athletes

(Source: – Published: October 1, 2007)

All types of abuse can occur in sport as they do in many other institutional contexts such as the workplace, government, religious organizations and the home. Specifically, abuse in sport, whether sexual or not, deters (children) … 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, as well as men and boys, can participate and feel free to report such incidents. Setting policy on verbal, physical and psychological abuse is also likely to decrease the likelihood of such offenses…

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 favours 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…

Leaders of sports governing bodies, educational institutions and athletic programs are encouraged to formulate, implement and evaluate policies on verbal, physical and psychological abuse as unacceptable behaviour by coaches toward their athletes or by players toward their teammates. The following policy statement 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 and add their own procedures for reporting and responding to abuse. Though the ostensible focus of this policy statement is on coach-athlete and athlete-athlete relationships, the policy should state that it applies to other professionals who work with athletes such as athletic trainers, sports psychologists, officials and sports information personnel.


Types and Definitions of Abuse

Verbal Abuse – The most commonly occurring type of abuse in sports includes:

Name calling

Hurtful comments regarding performance

Swearing at players or game officials

Comments meant to demean a person’s integrity


Trainer to player: “Fatty, lose some weight so you can actually get down the court.”

Coach to team: “You all suck. I thought you were better than that, but I guess I was wrong.”

Any and all expletives.

Coach to player: “I hope you aren’t proud of yourself. You shouldn’t be.”

Psychological or Emotional Abuse – such as but not limited to:

Having unrealistic goals or expectations of athletes,

Keeping athletes from participating in games or practices because of assumed limits or underdeveloped skills,

Issuing threats, or

Continually making demeaning statements.


A coach putting the success of a team on the shoulders of one “superstar.”

Before putting a non-starter in the game, a coach says, “I guess we will have to let you play, you’re the only one left.”

Coach to team: “If we lose any games this season, none of you will be invited back next year.”

Physical Abuse –

When coaches use any type of hurtful touch causing physical pain;

The use of excessive exercise, denial of fluids and/or imparting unreasonable requests as a form of punishment or a way of creating team discipline.


Slapping, grabbing, spitting, shoving, hitting or throwing equipment.

A team loses and the coach demands that his or her players run around the track until they vomit or pass out.

Team returns late at night after an away contest and goes right to the gym for a punishment practice.


Bullying is a form of verbal, physical or psychological abuse and includes the deliberate, repeated and sometimes health-endangering mistreatment of one or more persons (the target(s)) by a perpetrator (the bully) whose destructive actions are fuelled by the bully’s need to control the target(s).


Bullying is usually an ongoing physical or verbal mistreatment where a “game” of usurping control is an attempt to win while the other loses. Bullying coaches or players may often target more passive players. When the assaulted person appears to be upset, the bully often says things like, “What’s the big deal?” or “She asked for it.”


Any activity expected by existing team members or coaches themselves of someone joining a team or to maintain full status on a team that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.


Instances in which coaches or other players know about or are participants in any harmful or degrading initiation rituals involving new players. Examples of these rituals include walking in cooked spaghetti, running through a line of players who mildly assault the player, performing lewd acts or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

The development of any of the above disrespectful relationships between coaches and athletes, or athletes with other team members, compromises the professional integrity of the program and the educational mission of athletics. Such situations greatly increase the chances that an athlete may be personally exploited. Coaches exercise power over athletes, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations that further their athletic goals or conferring any other benefits on them. In the same way, some athletes may exert power over other athletes as a function of the bullying individual’s status, such as standing with the coaching staff, school, sponsoring organization; playing time; media attention; or skill level. The use of derogatory language and intentionally hurtful statements from coach to athlete or among athletes is wrong because coaches and sponsoring schools have a professional responsibility for the players.

Sports Foundation Position Statement: Abuse of Athletes By Coaches and/or Peers

The verbal, physical or psychological abuse of athletes subverts the mission of sports organizations and educational institutions to provide leadership and resources for the purpose of improving the physical, mental and emotional well-being of all females through sport and physical activity participation.

Any type of abuse has debilitating consequences both for its victims and for the society as a whole. In the context of athletic programs it lowers the self-esteem and limits the ability of participants to develop their full potential in sports and physical activities. It impairs the future capacity of its victims to experience full athletic participation and to pursue employment and leadership roles in athletics. This, in turn, deprives the society as a whole of the contributions of these individuals and damages a genuine appreciation of participant’s athletic achievements and contributions.

Abusive behaviour of coaches and/or teammates toward other players undermines the professionalism of organized sport, taints the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between coach and athlete and between teammates, and hinders the fulfillment of the overall educational mission of athletics.

In some instances, abuse may expose a school to liability.


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