InjureFree Blog

The Impact of Coaches' Words - Recognizing Harmful Behavior in Youth Sports

Sport is a beautiful thing that the world has embraced as one of life's greatest teaching tools. However, we must understand that sport (as in life) troubling things can and do happen Research tells us that it can occur in organized youth sports. Coaches play a significant role in athletes' lives, and because of the close coach-athlete relationship and the pressure of competition, athletes can sometimes face difficult situations. Studies show that about 40% to 50% of athletes have experienced different kinds of harm, ranging from minor problems to severe emotional, sexual, or physical hurt. Even more concerning is that young athletes who go through these challenging situations are less likely to continue to play. The goal of playing sports is "playing. This not only affects their well-being but also increases the chance of injuries. Harmful behavior isn't just about being a strict coach – it's something that we can completely prevent.

Let me share a story from Washington State to help you understand better. There was a mom named Justi Baumgardt, and her son Caden was playing soccer. One day, he got hit hard and even blacked out momentarily. His coach was shouting at him to keep playing, even though the rules say that if a player might have hurt their head, they must get checked by a doctor. After the game, Caden went to the doctor and discovered he had a concussion. He had to miss a week of school because of it. Imagine how tough it must be for a hurt athlete. They might feel like they must keep playing even when hurt because they're scared of getting treated badly. And sometimes, because of this pressure, they might get hurt even more.

Apart from teaching coaches about how to take care of concussions, prevent overuse injuries, and what to do in case of sudden heart problems, we also need coaches to know about recognizing and stopping harmful behavior. There are organizations like InjureFree that help coaches learn about these important things. Since parents trust coaches with their kids' well-being, coaches should be well-educated about all these matters.

If you're interested, you can watch a talk here by Coach Reed about how powerful words can be when it comes to young athletes.


  2. Gattis C, Moore M. A conceptual analysis of maltreatment in sports: A sport social work perspective. Front Sports Act Living. 2022 Nov 3;4:1017308. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2022.1017308. PMID: 36406770; PMCID: PMC9669431.
  3. Madigan, G. (2023, July 25). Part of the pipeline: Allegations of Abusive Culture at Youth Soccer Club mirror problems at Pro Level. KNKX Public Radio.

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