Maltreatment in sport: Implications for sport psychology research and practice


The recent and high profile cases of sexual abuse across several sports and countries has drawn significant attention and scrutiny from stakeholders in sport and the public at-large. Within the Canadian context, cases of sexual abuse have emerged in gymnastics, speed skating, swimming, and alpine skiing in the past year alone. The trauma experienced by abused athletes, as seen by the recent USA gymnastics cases for example, should sound the alarm that sport is not inherently a safe or 'good' place for all. Given the importance of the coach-athlete relationship on the nature and quality of athletes' sport experiences, knowledge of various forms of abuse and neglect, including and strategies for prevention and intervention, are critical for sport researchers and practitioners alike. Further, there appears to be a gap in addressing athlete abuse within sport psychology research as well as in safeguarding practice in sport. The purpose of this symposium is to present the current state of knowledge with respect to athlete maltreatment. Using the conceptual framework proposed by Stirling (2009), relational and non-relational maltreatment will be described, followed by current research on sexual, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, hazing and bullying in sport. Within each presentation, implications for the field of sport psychology will be drawn.