Child abuse in top sport – ethical challenges


  • Dragan Milanović
  • Zrinko Čustonja
  • Dario Škegro


child, sport, abuse, ethical challenge


Doing sport usually represents a positive experience. Unfortunately, we have started facing
more and more examples of abuse and violence against children in relation to sport. Th e
instances of child abuse is not only diffi cult defi ne – it is a complicated ethical issue which
require professional approach by a pedagogue, a kinesiologist, a psychologist, a physician and
a sociologist. Generally, there are no data which would show the frequency and prevalence
of abuse in sport, particularly in Croatia. Athlete's development is primarily aff ected by his
or her sports talent and training process, but also by several external factors, predominantly:
sports club, coach, co-players, family, school and social community. Th ey can be at the same
time the sources of diff erent types of child abuse in sport and the relation of professionals and
the society in general towards them is a serious ethical challenge.
A period in which young athletes are the most vulnerable and most exposed to abuse is a period
in which they have the most to lose, the period of achieving high levels of sports results.
Abuse and violence by coaches become acceptable and are generally tolerated if at the same
time the athlete achieves noticeable results and is successful. Th at paradox presents the most
serious ethical challenge in coaching children in top sport. Is it acceptable to move the limits
of what is considered to be abuse and accept that abuse with the purpose of achieving top
sports results?