Child abuse in youth soccer

What is abuse and how do I recognise it?

Physical Abuse
Physical Abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, kicking, punching, pinching, biting, choking, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after. This is commonly described using terms such as Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy (now known as Fabricated or Induced Illness).

Examples of physical abuse in youth soccer
May be when a child is forced into training and competition that exceeds the capacity of his or her immature or growing body; or where the child is given drugs to enhance performance or delay puberty.

Sexual Abuse
Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or watching sexual activities, talking to children in a sexually explicit manner or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Examples of sexual abuse in youth soccer
May be when a child is forced into training and competition that exceeds the capacity of his or her immature or growing body; or where the child is given drugs to enhance performance or delay puberty.

Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child likely to cause severe and lasting adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.

It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.

It may feature expectations being imposed on children that are inappropriate to their age or stage of development.

It may involve causing a child frequently to feel frightened or in danger through constant shouting, taunting or threatening behaviour.

Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Examples of emotional abuse in youth soccer
May include subjecting children to constant criticism, name-calling, and sarcasm or bullying. Putting them under consistent pressure to perform to unrealistically high standards is also a form of emotional abuse.

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basis physical and psychological needs, likely to result in serious impairment of the child’s health or development.

It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate care or treatment. It may also include neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs such as the refusal to give children love, affection and/or attention, domestic violence or drug/alcohol abuse in the child’s presence.

Examples of neglect in youth soccer
May include not ensuring children are safe; exposing them to undue cold or heat, or exposing them to unnecessary risk of injury.

Bullying is abuse and/or intimidation by a person, persons or an organisation against another or others.

Bullying can be psychological, verbal or physical in nature. It involves an imbalance of power in which the powerful attack the powerless, and occurs over time rather than being a single act. Examples of bullying behaviour can include:

Physical physical assault (pushing, kicking, hitting, punching, etc) or threats of violence

Verbal name calling, insulting others, sarcasm, lying about others, spreading malicious rumours or persistent teasing.

Emotional ignoring/excluding, tormenting, ridiculing, deliberately embarrassing or humiliating others, making people feel different or like an outsider

Racist using racial taunts, gestures or racist graffiti.

Sexual unwanted physical contact, abusive comments or homophobic behaviour.

In an NSPCC study, Child Maltreatment in the UK, boys were found to be most likely to experience physical bullying or threats, or have property stolen or damaged. Girls were more likely to be ignored or not spoken to.

Bullying by adults was a less common experience but one in ten young people reported this. Their most common experiences of adult bullying were being deliberately embarrassed or humiliated, being unfairly treated or verbally abused and being ignored or not spoken to.

Examples of bullying in youth soccer
The competitive nature of sport makes it an ideal environment for bullying behaviour.

The bully can be:

A parent who pushes too hard
A coach who adopts a win at all costs philosophy
A player who intimidates other players or officials
An official who places unfair pressure on a person.