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Coach-Athlete Sexual Relationships: Passionate about athletes and coaching is great, but love should be forbidden?
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5575-4737
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Sport Psychology research group.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9921-6586
2015 (English)In: Proceedings of the 10th ICCE Global Coach Conference – Coach and Athlete Empowerment: A Winning Combination, 2015Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

Coach-athlete sexual relationships (CASR) tend to be sensitive, complex and problematic as they intersect professional and private spheres. Moreover, they are surrounded by ambiguous boundaries and taboos, and profoundly relates to the welfare, safety, sport performance, power, ethics, trust, sexual desire and love of coaches and athletes (Bringer et al., 2002; Johansson, 2013). In this paper we aim to highlight and critically discuss legal CASR by adopting a coach perspective.

Argumentation

Overall, CASR is a neglected issue, constituting an ethical and emotional minefield that is rarely addressed openly (Johansson, 2013). In contrast, athlete and child protection have intensified as a response to resent high-profile cases of sexual abuse in sport (Brackenridge & Rhind, 2014; DSJ, 2012, IOC, 2007). In some sport organisations this implies prohibiting CASR for athlete protection purposes (cf. Brake & Burton Nelson, 2012; Safe4athletes, 2013). The current body of research focuses on the sexual abuse of athletes (e.g., DSJ, 2012; Toftegaard-Nielsen, 2001; Toftegaard-Støckel, 2010) and is often driven by theories of structural power and gender order (e.g., Brake, 2012; Kirby et al., 2000; Tomlinson & Yorganci, 1997). As a consequence, male coaches tends to be cast as potential perpetrators of SA in relation to subordinate female (or child) athlete victims (cf. Hartill, 2009; Johansson, 2013). Recent literature gives examples on how moral panic and fear of sexual abuse resulting in suspicion towards coaches can hamper coach motivation and coach-athlete interaction (e.g., Piper et al., 2012; Taylor et al., 2014). Drawing on literature into teacher-student and superior-employee sexual relationships (e.g., Sikes, 2006; Williams, 1999), we problematise dichotomous right/wrong edicts and discuss additional ways to understand CASR, gendered sexual agency, sexual consent, and coaches' power.

Implications

Our discussion raises implications for further research and questions on how to prevent harmful, abusive and dysfunctional CASR without casting (male) coaches as perpetrators of sexual abuse. Our suggestions are: 1) Initiate comprehensive research exploring positive and negative characteristics and effects of legal CASR to expand the knowledge of CASR beyond the sexual abuse context. 2) Facilitate transparency, a climate of open discussion and coach education about CASR and related ethical dilemmas. 3) Develop, examine and carefully implement scientifically and ethically sound policy and codes of practice to prevent and manage harmful CASR and sexual abuse.

References

Brackenridge, C.H. & Rhind, D. (2014). Child Protection in Sport: Reflections on Thirty Years of Science and Activism. Social Sciences, 3, 326-340.

Brake, D. (2012). Going outside title IX to keep coach-athlete relationships in bounds. Marquette Sports Law Review, 22, 394-425.

Brake, D.L. & Burton-Nelson, M. (2012). Staying in bounds––An NCAA model policy to prevent inappropriate relationships between student-athletes and athletics department personnel. Kansas City: National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators.

Bringer, J.D. Brackenridge, C.H. & Johnston, L.H. (2002). Defining appropriateness in coach-athlete sexual relationships: The voice of coaches. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 8(2), 83-98.

Deutsche Sport Jugend, DSJ. (2012). Prevention of sexual and gender harassment and abuse in sports: Initiatives in Europe and beyond. Available at: http://www.dsj.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Bilder/Handlungsfelder/Europa/europ_PSG_Projekt_2012/Catalogue_Initiatives_in_Europe_and_beyond__2012_2.pdf

Hartill, M. (2009). The Sexual abuse of Boys in Organized Male Sports. Men and Masculinities, 2, 225-249.

International Olympic Committee, IOC. (2007). Consensus statement on sexual harassment and abuse in sport. Available at: http://www.olympic.org/documents/reports/en/en_report_1125.pdf

Johansson, S. (2013). Coach–athlete sexual relationships: if no means no does yes mean yes? Sport, Education and Society, 18, 678-693.

Kirby, S., Greaves, L. & Hankivsky, O. (2000). The dome of silence. Sexual harassment and abuse in sport. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Piper, H. Taylor, B. & Garratt, D. (2012). Sports coaching in risk society: No touch! No trust! Sport, Education and Society, 17, 331-345.

Safe4Athltetes. (2013). Handbook. Available at: http://safe4athletes.org/component/k2/item/31-safe4athletes-handbook

Sikes, P. (2006). Scandalous stories and dangerous liaisons: when female pupils and male teachers fall in love. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 6, 265-280.

Taylor, W.G. Piper, H. & Garratt, D. (2014). Sports coaches as 'dangerous individuals'—practice as governmentality. Sport, Education and Society, Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2014.899492.

Toftegaard Nielsen, J. (2001). The Forbidden Zone. Intimacy, Sexual Relations and Misconduct in the Relationship between Coaches and Athletes. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 36, 165-182.

Toftegaard Støckel, J. (2010). Athlete perceptions and experiences of sexual abuse in intimate coach-athlete relationships. In Brackenridge, C.H. & Rhind, D. (eds.). Elite Child Athlete Welfare: International perspectives. London: Brunel University Press.

Tomlinson, A. & Yorganci, I. (1997). Male coach/female athlete relations: Gender and power relations in competitive sport. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 21, 134-155.

Williams, C.L. Giuffre, P.A. & Dellinger, K. (1999). Sexuality in the workplace: Organizational control, sexual harassment, and the pursuit of pleasure. Annual Review of Sociology, 25(1), 73-93.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences Psychology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-4082OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-4082DiVA: diva2:846184
Conference
10th ICCE Global Coach Conference – Coach and Athlete Empowerment: A Winning Combination. Vierumäki, Finland. 23-25 August 2015
Available from: 2015-08-26 Created: 2015-08-14 Last updated: 2016-10-11Bibliographically approved

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