I had a really interesting conversation with Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence (Camosun College) faculty member, Dr. Andy Van Neutegem last week that has really got me thinking.
After years of experience in the world of competitive and recreational sport (through active participation and watching many events), I know the importance of the coaches' role in the athletes development. There are some amazing coaches out there and if you have the pleasure to work with them, it’s a joy. However as in any occupation there are some which ruin the reputation of the role for all the others.
The "bad coaches" in this case are the ones who go too far and "abuse" their athletes. I have been doing a lot of work in emotional abuse and how harsh words can impact a person’s life. After reading an article by Ashley Stirling and Gretchen Kerr (2008) from the University of Toronto called “Defining and categorizing emotional abuse in sport”, many of athlete’s experiences got me thinking.
“ [Coach[ would stand there and scream at you and call you fat”(p.176)
“ My coach was treating me worse than garbage…..He was making me feel belittled, like a tiny little person” (p. 176)
For more examples, check out http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/Content/Articles/Issues/Coaching/A/Addressing-the-Issue-of-Verbal-Physical-and-Psychological-Abuse-of-Athletes--The-Foundation-Position.aspx.
These are examples of female athletes experience but this abuse occurs to male athletes as well. It is not only male coaches who abuse but also females.
Why are these comments acceptable especially from someone in such a powerful postion?
So during my conversation last week, we were wondering why is it that in any other profession that behaviour is unacceptable, yet it is still tolerated in sport. What can you do if your coach is like that to you?
I think these comments and this behaviour is completely unacceptable. The coach may want you to get stronger and make changes but they should not call you fat, yell at you in public and degrade you. A good coach would deal with this in a positive way. I’m surprised why some coaches would continue with this when there are elevated levels of disordered eating in sport. Maybe it’s because some coaches abuse their power and don’t value their role as a coach/don’t see it as a job. I think to be a coach there should stronger policies in place. Instead of knowing just the sport and how to train the athletes to push them to their best, the coach should also know the appropriate manner in how to interact with the athletes. You can have a great team and push your athletes to excellence without being abusive and causing long-term harm to them.
** Thanks to all the AMAZING coaches who have inspired me and many others to reach their full potential. Keep it up!
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!