Verbal Abuse In Sports & Competitions

Verbal Abuse In Sports & Competitions

The Rules of the Game

By Patricia Evans

“Isn’t verbal abuse just a part of sports?” a woman asked. Within the exacting parameters of the rules of the game, men and women test their skills, balance, form, speed, strength and endurance. They prepare themselves for the tests of life. Will they keep going when the going gets tough? And just as important, will they play fair? After all, if they don’t play fair, follow the rules, they’ve failed the test. They’ve “won” a false victory. They’ve taken the coward’s way.

Good sportsmanship transferred to every day life shows up as fairness, honesty and respect of others. While it’s true that a lot of good coaches who are honest and fair pass these values on to their teams, some team players and some coaches, both in and out of the game, are less than sportsmanlike. Incidents of verbal and physical abuse, perpetrated by coaches or players, are making the news. They don’t play fair.

Abuse is a perverted way of “winning” over others. It’s the opposite of being a good sport–the opposite of good sportsmanship.

The most common form of unfair behavior is verbal abuse. When verbal abuse, temper tantrums and outbursts of rage are tolerated in a coach or team member the message is, “It’s okay to launch personal attacks on others.” Somehow inflicting pain is considered among other things justifiable or a sign of strength.

When a coach is fired for abuse, no matter how adept the coach was at his job, people of intelligence realize that taking a stand against abuse is much more important than condoning it.

No one is more influenced by verbal abuse than a child. The negative impact of verbal abuse on children can not be measured. Certainly some children succeed who were verbally abused in childhood but are they better people?

Teaching coaches to stop abuse both among team members and by coaches is essential if we are to live in a healthier world.


Positive Coaching Alliance helps players develop good sportsmanship “habits” through drills, discussion and modeling sportsmanlike behavior. The organization offers training and publishes a newsletter. They state the following: As a local Partner, your organization will continually receive tools and strategies that can dramatically reduce negative incidents and encourage a positive environment for all involved in the youth sports setting. Check out their web site at or e-mail them from the site for more information.


Athletes for a Better World provides a code for living for your school/team that you can download and use in your school/team’s mission statement. Check it out at

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