Category Archives: Abuse

Is Emotional Abuse “black and white” or a “gray” area?

In my post, “Is it Emotional Abuse”, I had the opportunity to share some alarming statistics about how rampant abuse is in youth sports.  But just knowing the stats is not enough.  This is where you need to be an “active participant” for your kid and be their advocate with abusive coaches.  But first, there are some guidelines out there to help you determine if your kid is being abused?

We have put together some “Black and White” areas that if you ever see happening to your kid you should take corrective action immediately and get it stopped.  But first, you have to recognize what these forms of abuse are so you can engage.  The following are some common forms of emotionally abusive coach behaviour that has been proven to have a negative impact on youth athletes’ levels of confidence, fear, self-worth, mood states, and levels of depression.


  • Public Humiliation and embarrassment in front of others
  • Belittling, putting down, making fun of, or when your kid is the brunt of a joke
  • Critical sarcasm that is uncalled for and not funny to your kid
  • Shouting and or yelling at your kid
  • Scapegoating, blaming or constant excuse making
  • Making your kid feel less worthy than his/her team mates
  • Rejecting your kid in any realm of the sport in any way
  • Telling your kid he/she is fat or overweight or has an undesirable body image
  • Isolating you kid away from other team mates
  • Threatening your kid about anything


  • Ignoring as if they didn’t exist, not listening to them The coach only stresses the importance of performing better than your opponent – This sounds counter intuitive, but an excessive emphasis on normative performance (winning) against others has been shown to correlate with increased worry, anxiety in competitive situations, and ultimate withdrawal from the activity
  • The coach pits his/her own players against each other during practices.
  • The coach spends more time in training phases than skill development phases.
  • The coach only values the best competitive performers.
  • Only the best performers are given recognition.
  • Recognition is given only for winning rather than effort and personal improvement.
  • Coaches make frequent comparisons of their players to other players, motivating them through guilt
  • The coach makes sexually inappropriate comments about gender, sexual preference, body attributes, or rival competitors.
  • The coach only works with one gender while neglecting the others in a co-ed sport

Remember parents, it is your job to stop abusive behavior.  In another post, I will talk about how to stop these coaches from abusing your kid!  In the meantime, there is a great story and resource that talks about the abuse in the sport of Judo that you might find interesting.

A very helpful resource, Focus Adolescent Resources, gives a number of examples of emotional abuse, including such topics as Belittling, Put-Downs, Teasing, Fault-finding, Intimidation, and others.  It’s worth the read and checking it out for more information on emotional abuse.

There are some great resources on the official Little League site under the Child Protection Program, which talks about both the need for background checks and training on Child Abuse Prevention. There is also a nice article on different types of abuse in sports, focused on soccer, and some signs you should be aware of when it comes to abuse.

Is it “Emotional Abuse?”

We sit on the sidelines watching our kids being screamed at, yelled at, put down by their coaches, and humiliated in front of their teammates.  We know something isn’t right and ask ourselves, “Is this emotional abuse?”

There were so many times my gut was in knots because of things the coaches would say or do to my kids – nothing was sitting right with me.  But I didn’t know for sure whether it was my expectations on how they should talk and act toward my kid or if it was in fact emotional abuse.  I learned to go with my gut instinct because, EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS HARD TO DEFINE!

There is a gray area and many coaches push those limits in the gray.  You need to remember, the older your kid gets, the higher the level of competition which means the higher the level of abuse. It gets much worse out there, and parents; it is YOUR JOB to stop abusive behavior before it stops your kid from playing.

I WISH I HAD THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION EARLIER… without question I would have e-mailed it to my kid’s coach!  Maybe it would have helped.  There are some interesting facts that were produced by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.  They conducted a survey and found the following statistics about the incidences of abuse happening in youth sports.

  • 45.3% of males and females surveyed said they have been called names, yelled at or insulted while participating in sports
  • 17.5% of people surveyed said they have been hit, kicked or slapped while participating in sports
  • 21% said they have been pressured to play with an injury
  • 8.2% said they have been pressured to intentionally harm others while playing sports
  • 3.4% said they have been pressured into sex or sexual touching
  • 8% of all surveyed said they have been called names with sexual connotations while participating in sports

The end result is that there are more kids getting abused in youth sports today than any of us realize.  We all have to do our part to make our coaches aware of this and help them to understand the seriousness of the issue.  If they understand, maybe it will help them be more conscious of their actions before they engage in abusive behaviors.  Help your coach – share the information…