Mental Health

6 Tips for identifying an unhealthy coach-athlete relationship

April 11, 2019

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Throughout the year, many of our kids participate in sports. Besides the physical and mental well-being children gain from being part of a team, sports can also give kids valuable life lessons, from dealing with success and failure to respecting rules and opponents. 

While most coaches have the best interests of the kids they are entrusted with at heart, it’s important for families to know what is and is not a healthy relationship between coaches and athletes.   

Here are the basics every athlete and their family should know about their personal safety: 

Coaches SHOULD:
1) Treat every athlete equally
2) Touch athletes only with permission and only to teach a skill
3) Take pictures of athletes only for official reasons, such as a team photo
4) Be an athlete’s teacher and mentor, not romantic partner
5) Never ask someone to keep secrets, lie about where they are or lie for them

Coaches SHOULD NOT mistreat their athletes and SHOULD stop athletes from mistreating others. 

6 Tips for identifying an unhealthy coach-athlete relationship


1) Bully or use emotional abuse; examples include anyone who:

  • Physically hurts you or threatens to hit or hurt you
  • Tries to make you do something wrong; like hurt another player
  • Intentionally makes you feel worthless, humiliated or embarrassed
  • Yells at you, calls you names, ridicules you or intimidates you
  • Leaves you out, gossips about you, spreads rumors about you or tries to control you

2) Engage in hazing, initiation rituals or physical punishment, such as:

  • Pressuring or forcing you to drink alcohol, take drugs, eat or drink something that you don’t want; show body parts; perform any physical activity that is clearly beyond your ability, or force you to do something that may result in harm
  • Physically restrain you
  • Deprive you of sleep, food, rest or water
  • Force you to take performance improving substances

3) Use harassment to cause fear, humiliation, embarrassment or anxiety, such as:

  • Making negative or disparaging comments about your sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, disability, religion, skin color or ethnic traits
  • Displaying offensive materials, gestures or symbols
  • Withholding or reducing playing time based on gender, gender orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity, culture or religion

4) No one should sexually harass an athlete with unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature as a condition of participation in an activity.

5) No one should use their status to inappropriately touch, make sexual comments, or ask you to send them inappropriate pictures/videos of themselves.

6) Coaches should NOT have a romantic relationship with any athlete

For more information on how you can keep your child safe and informed visit the CARES Northwest website. The CARES Northwest prevention program is funded entirely through philanthropic donations. With generous support from the community, we can put an end to child abuse and neglect. To make a gift, click here.

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