Sungwon Kim, Daniel P. Connaughton, & David P. Hedlund


Although sexual harassment and abuse in youth sport have received increasing research attention worldwide, less is known about youth coaches’ perceptions of sexually inappropriate behaviors and intimate relationships with athletes. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine youth sport coaches’ perceptions of behaviors that can lead to potential sexual harassment and abuse, as well as to understand how coaches perceive coach-athlete sexual relationships. A cross-sectional survey was completed by 200 male coaches from various U.S. youth sport programs. Overall, a majority of coaches indicated behaviors associated with sexist comments and verbal/physical advances as sexually inappropriate. There was, however, a lack of consensus regarding what constitutes sexually inappropriate behaviors when the behavior was instruction-related/contextually dependent. Results were mixed regarding the perceptions of coach-athlete sexual relationships, with a notable number of coaches agreeing that sexual intimacies with young athletes (17 years or younger) are not always harmful and should not be prohibited. Based on a regression analysis, white coaches were more likely to exhibit negative perceptions about coach-athlete sexual relationships compared to ethnically diverse coaches. Overall, these findings warrant the development or reevaluation of policies and interventions aimed at preventing sexual harassment and abuse in the youth sport environment. Continued research is needed to better understand youth sport coaches as the perpetrators of sexual harassment and abuse.