Olympic Studies Centre
The Olympic Studies Centre

The project is team comprises Dr Jenny McMahon of the University of Tasmania, Australia; Dr Melanie Lang, Edge Hill University, UK; Professor Kerry McGannon, Laurentian University, Canada; and Dr Christopher Zehntner, Southern Cross University, Australia. Dr McMahon is the project lead, and the study is funded by the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Studies Centre through its Research Grant Programme.


Athlete-and Coach-led education for teaching about abuse and neglect: Researching the process, experiences, and outcomes.

Period: September 2020 – September 2021
Project grant: US $11,606

‘Athlete-and Coach-led education for teaching about abuse and neglect’ is a collaborative partnership between four universities in Australia, Canada and the UK.

Recent high-profile disclosures have again drawn attention to the problem of athlete abuse in numerous sports and countries. These have shown that athletes at different levels (e.g., children, adolescents, adults, elite), and across sporting contexts (e.g., gymnastics, swimming, athletics, football), have been subjected to multiple forms of abuse. Studies suggest that non-sexual forms of abuse, such as emotional/ psychological abuse and neglect are the most common forms of abuse, being three times more likely to occur than sexual abuse. With the normalisation of some forms of athlete maltreatment occurring across sporting levels and contexts, the ‘safeguarding’ of athletes is an urgent priority that needs to move beyond a reactive or child protection approach and focus on prevention.

This project investigates the implementation, outcomes, and transferability of an athlete- and coach-led abuse education programme. The programme teaches athletes of all ages, from children through to adults, about non-sexual abuse and neglect. By providing abuse education for children through to adults (i.e., a ‘bottom up’ approach), the project aims to prevent athlete maltreatment from being normalised and identify best practice in teaching athletes, coaches and sporting stakeholders about abuse in sport.