March 5, 2010
The Effects of Abusive Coaching in Youth Soccer by Steward Flaherty
Parents trust soccer coaches with the well-being and development of their children by becoming role models and authority figures. A positive soccer coach can create lifelong positive effects. Unfortunately, abusive coaching in youth soccer can cause great damage to soccer players, with negative effects that stretch far beyond the field of play.
Bullying can come in verbal, mental or physical form. Bullying is defined as an intentional, repeated, hurtful act. In a report on bullying, college soccer coach Dr. Michael Giuliano stated that, sadly, coaching is one of the few professions where verbal abuse is still considered acceptable. It is seen as motivational by many coaches to yell and show disrespect, and some even reduce players to tears, taking pride in their toughness. But where does the line exist? The role of a soccer coach is to get the best performance out of a player; if verbal attacks ruin the confidence and mindset of a player, then it is unsuccessful and can be seen as bullying. Physical bullying such as grabbing and pushing players to incite a response is also dangerous ground for coaches. Basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight found this out when he was subjected to an NCAA investigation after appearing to grab an Indiana University athlete by the throat.
Dr. Stephen Joseph conducted a study on bullying effects in 2003 through the University of Warwick. Joseph reported that verbal abuse can have more impact upon victim's self-worth than physical attacks. Rather than the desired effect by coaches of toughening up young players, abusive coaching in the form of verbal bullying has been shown to cause significant levels of post-traumatic stress disorder in 33 percent of young people. Abusive coaching in youth soccer can also have negative physical effects. A 2007 study performed through Penn State University by JoLynn Carney found that levels of coritsol, the stress hormone, were elevated in the saliva of children who had been bullied recently and those who expected to be bullied in the near future.
The more the act of bullying is repeated through abusive coaching in youth soccer, the greater the damage. As well as loss of confidence and enjoyment of the game, more long-term and damaging impact will occur. Carney's 2007 study reported that repeated exposure to stressful events is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, greater chance of injury, chronic pelvic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Check back next week for another great article to improve your coaching skills.