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Harassment in sport: implications for coaches regarding sexual abuse and ritual hazing

Journal CAHPERD; Vanier Vol. 64, Iss. 2,  (Summer 1998): 14-19.

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Society often looks to sport as a means to provide the opportunity for young people to build character and develop leadership skills (Martens, 1990). As Martens stated, "through sport, young people can develop morally -- they can learn a basic code of ethics that is transferable to a moral code for life." Intuitively then, it is reasonable to expect that young people, while developing and learning a moral code transferable to life, are largely influenced by the attitudes and actions of their coaches. With guidance and support from those coaches, athletes learn to value certain attributes from their sport experience. Some attributes athletes learn to value as a result of their involvement in sport include: respect, integrity, responsibility, personal sacrifice, having fun and helping others. All of these attributes are transferable to a moral code for life.

One of the more intrinsic values associated with sport is the fact that moral decisions are required, that young people have the opportunity to learn, and adults have the opportunity to model appropriate ethical behavior (Martens, 1990). However, recent developments in sport have revealed that some athletes and coaches are prone to compromise their values by engaging in activities that lack moral judgment and seriously jeopardize the well being of innocent people. For example Contenta (1996) wrote, "nine midget hockey players [boys] were made to watch pornographic videos, told to drop their pants and do push-ups while molasses, mustard, and peanut butter were spread on them...a funnel was then shoved into their mouths and the fifteen year-olds were force-fed beer."

Perhaps the most reprehensible incident receiving attention recently was the revelation that a former Major Junior A hockey coach, Graham James, had sexually abused more than one of his players during their tenure with the team. One of the players, Sheldon Kennedy, was...