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Learn to Recognize the Signs Between Athletes and Coaches

Touch Boundaries

Appropriate Touch

  • Instructive: demonstrating a sports skill or spotting
  • Encouraging: a quick hug, high five, or pat on the back

Inappropriate Touch

  • Private or sexual in nature
  • Any touch that feels uncomfortable

Physical Boundaries

Appropriate Intervention

  • Hands-on safety intervention
  • Sport-specific direction and spotting

Inappropriate Intervention

  • Deliberate actions causing physical injury
  • Deliberate physical intimidation
  • Encouraging action that could cause injury
  • Forcing athlete to play injured

Emotional Boundaries

Appropriate Interaction

  • Consistent and balanced exchanges with all team members and sport staff
  • Encouraging mentorship and nurturing environments

Inappropriate Interaction

  • Withholding attention or instruction
  • Acting like peers instead of coach and athlete
  • Preferential treatment or secretive interactions


Appropriate Supervision

  • Attending to medical or health needs
  • Maintaining safety equipment
  • Establishing clear safety rules/regulations
  • Being mindful of athlete psychological well-being


  • Not reporting or treating injuries
  • Lack of visual supervision
  • Inadequate safety equipment
  • Ignoring psychological warning signs or mental health disclosures

Verbal Boundaries

Appropriate Verbal Interaction

  • Good-natured humor
  • Firm verbal safety instructions
  • Team-building positive pep talks

Inappropriate Verbal Interaction/Bullying

  • Isolating athletes
  • Not intervening when athletes are bullied
  • Threatening actions or using power dynamics to intimidate
  • Damaging messages or verbal insults
  • Degrading race, religion, gender, disability or other aspects of one’s identity

Secure Environments

Appropriate Security

  • Implement a child abuse prevention education plan
  • Develop policy and procedure to address safety
  • Identify and vet “safe adults” in the community
  • Make reporting hotline and support helpline
    information available to everyone

High-Risk Zone

  • Failure to implement appropriate abuse education
  • Lack of clear abuse-reporting or response protocol
  • No helpful resources made available to those in the sports community

Courage First Athlete Helpline is presented by the Foundation for Global Sports Development/Sidewinder Films and the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.