A major three-year study to provide information about the nature and range of negative experiences and harm faced by children participating in organised sport in the UK. It is based on a comprehensive literature review, an on-line survey yielding more than 6,000 returns and 89 in-depth interviews. In the study students (aged 18-22) share their experience and retrospective views of participating in organised sport as children (up to 16yrs). Prior research in this area is mainly qualitative, focused on young elite athletes and on particular sports. This research is quantitative and qualitative, focuses on the experiences of children and young people participating in sport at all levels and in more than 40 different sports.
The study highlighted that overall, participating in organised sport was a positive experience for most children and young people. However, sitting alongside this, a negative sporting culture was widely reported and largely accepted as ‘the norm’ and is perpetuated by peers, coaches and other adults. Young people in the study reported widespread emotionally harmful treatment and unacceptable levels of sexual harassment. Peers were the most common perpetrators of all forms of harm reported, with coaches sometimes condoning this or failing to challenge it effectively. Coaches were the second most common perpetrators of harm with their role in harm increasing as young athletes advanced through the competitive ranks. Sport has achieved a great deal over the past 10 years and made significant progress towards ensuring that children and young people are able to participate in sport safely and enjoyably. However work remains to be done. The research has highlighted a number of recommendations for coaches, coach systems builders and adults involved in delivering youth sport.