Athlete maltreatment

Authored by: Ashley Stirling , Gretchen Kerr

Routledge International Handbook of Sport Psychology

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022423
eBook ISBN: 9781315777054
Adobe ISBN: 9781317692324


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The study of athlete maltreatment emerged in the 1990s, in response to several high-profile cases of athlete abuse and heightened public concern for athlete welfare (Brackenridge, 2001). In 1993, British Olympic swim coach Paul Hickson was charged, and later convicted, of 15 sexual offences against former teenage swimmers in his care (Donegan, 1995). Around the same time, national hockey league player, Sheldon Kennedy, accused celebrated Canadian coach Graham James of over 300 accounts of sexual molestation, of which James pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced to three and a half years in prison (Robinson, 1998). Several other athletes including national hockey league player, Theoren Fluery, subsequently came forward as victims of James’ sexual abuse (Fleury & McLelland Day, 2009). At the time of these revelations, there was little public attention or research on the issue of athlete abuse and harassment in sport, a paucity of sport policies and procedures to prevent or manage such concerns, and only minimal recognition amongst national and international sport organizations of the potential for athlete harm at the hands of the coach (Brackenridge, 2001).

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