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Emotional and Physical Abuse
and Misconduct Toolkit

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The U.S. Center for SafeSport is creating an Emotional and Physical Abuse and Misconduct Toolkit available in the coming weeks—for coaches, volunteers, and others who work directly with young athletes—to help individuals who participate in sport recognize, prevent, and respond to five major types of abuse and misconduct:

  • Emotional Misconduct
  • Physical Misconduct
  • Harassment
  • Bulling
  • Hazing

Explore These Themes

This toolkit will help you recognize, prevent, and respond to emotional and physical abuse and misconduct in your sport activities and environments, and it includes three primary sections:

Recognize

The Recognize section introduces five major types of emotional and physical abuse and misconduct. You will learn how to identify them in your sport settings, and how to recognize when common behaviors escalate into misconduct.

Prevent

The Prevent section outlines preventing emotional and physical abuse and misconduct in your sport. You will learn about trauma-sensitive coaching, creating positive team environments, and stopping problematic behaviors from becoming abuse and misconduct.

RESPOND

As much as we wish to, we cannot prevent all instances of abuse and misconduct. The Respond section guides you on responding to athletes who disclose abuse or misconduct to you, recognizing and addressing retaliation, and appropriately reporting abuse and misconduct.

Toolkit Resources

The Emotional and Physical Abuse and Misconduct Toolkit will include numerous handouts and activities you can use with your stakeholders. Now, you can download several Toolkit resources to preview Toolkit guidance and put key principles in play today.

Suggestions for coaches to respectfully, fairly, and consistently guide athletes.

Tools to help coaches thoughtfully and honestly assess communication, interactions, and potential warning signs on their team.

Tips and scenarios to help your team, club, or facility be inclusive for people of all abilities, races, backgrounds, and identities.

Realistic prompts coaches can use with new or returning athletes to set a positive tone and promote bonding.

Why We're Doing This

Sports are a cornerstone of American life, and the 58% of children ages 6 to 17 who participate1 gain countless physical, emotional, educational, and social benefits.

Yet athletes’ sport experience is not uniformly or universally positive. A recent U.S. Center for SafeSport Athlete Culture & Climate Survey found that 80% of athletes indicated experiencing at least one of 18 indicators of psychological harm or neglect2. Nearly 22 percent of athletes indicated being physically harmed in their sport participation3. LGBTQ+ athletes, athletes with disabilities, and elite athletes are at added risk of abuse and harassment, which can cause short- and long-term harm to athletes and worsen team performance.

But for every form of abuse and misconduct, we can choose counteracting healthy behaviors that build athletes up rather than tear them down—fostering positive and successful experiences, free of abuse, for young athletes everywhere.

You play a key role in shaping sport environments in which all athletes feel safe, supported, and strengthened. By modeling and teaching appropriate behaviors and boundaries, and by sharing the importance of abuse-prevention principles far and wide, you can reduce the possibility of abuse and misconduct in your sport settings.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019). National Youth Sports Strategy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed from: health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/National_Youth_Sports_Strategy.pdf
2 U.S. Center for SafeSport, Institute to Promote Athlete Health and Wellness, University of North Carolina Greensboro. (2021) Athlete Culture & Climate Survey.
3 Gilchrist, M. & Mallett, C. J. (2017). The theory (SDT) behind effective coaching. In R. Thelwell, C. Harwood, & I. Greenlees (Eds.). The Psychology of Sports Coaching: Research and Practice (pp. 38-53). New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

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Learn more about trainings and resources that can help you apply abuse prevention practices and policies in your sport setting.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport is an independent nonprofit organization responsible for responding to and preventing emotional, physical, and sexual misconduct and abuse in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement. 

This site was supported in part by grant number 2018-KY-B8-0001, awarded by the SMART Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

© Copyright 2022 U.S. Center for Safesport