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Childhood: violence in sport still trivialized

  • June 7, 2024
  • 7 Min
  • 9

Ordinary educational violence against children, whether verbal, psychological or physical, remains trivialized in the sporting environment despite its harmful consequences, deplore the Children’s Foundation and players in the sector, as we approach of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

According to a barometer carried out in April by Ifop among 1,007 parents of children aged 0 to 10, 38% report inappropriate behavior in the context of their children’s sporting activities.

It most often involves verbal violence (19%), psychological violence (15%) and neglect (14%). This is followed by physical (11%) and sexual (9%) violence.

More worrying, according to the Foundation: almost half of the parents surveyed consider it difficult or impossible to train a child without shouting, 34% without punishing them, 27% without shoving them and 26% without slapping them or spanking them.

Generally speaking, a third of parents consider that violence in sport “is normal and necessary to allow the child to progress and succeed”deplores the director of the Children’s Foundation, Joëlle Sicamois, to AFP.

Stressing that sport “can be a fabulous tool for emancipation and well-being”she pleads for an evolution in training methods, to get children to surpass themselves “without yelling at them, humiliating them, making fun of them”. Because these behaviors can create ” sequelae “particularly on ” Self-confidence “.

” Nothing “

Childhood: violence in sport still trivialized

Former 3,000m steeplechase specialist Emma Oudiou during the French elite athletics championships in Albi, July 7, 2018 / PASCAL PAVANI / AFP/Archives

For the former 3,000 m steeplechase specialist Emma Oudiou, ordinary violence is “very little things which, when repeated, do a lot of harm”. She quotes “remarks on weight”which can lead to eating disorders, “body jokes” including private parts, being told that you are “too mentally weak” after a failure.

“You’re fat, you won’t amount to anything, you’re worthless…” This is what can be launched, confirms Katia Palla, director of the association for the prevention of violence in sport La Voix de Sarah, created by the former skating champion Sarah Abitbol, ​​a teenage victim of repeated rape by her coach.

If the issue of sexual violence in sport has received media coverage in recent years, it is, according to Joëlle Sicamois, part of “a continuum of violence”.

“Sexual violence is directly linked to other types of violence, psychological and physical”adds Emma Oudiou, who stopped her career in 2021 due to the violent climate, claiming in particular to have been the victim of sexual assault in 2014 by a coach in the French team.


Warning signs can be “a change in the child’s behavior, in the way he eats, the fact that he isolates himself”she explains, pleading for more training and awareness.

“We must help adults to become aware of words that can be humiliating” et “gestures which might seem harmless but which are already attacks”for example by defining a framework for the way in which the coach can touch the body of a gymnast or has the right to enter the locker room, details Katia Palla.

“We must also encourage what is done well rather than pointing out poor performance, encourage children to exceed their own results rather than being in a logic of comparison”underlines Joëlle Sicamois.

Changes have already taken place, with the vote in February of a law requiring clubs to check that coaches and volunteers are not registered in the sex offender file and that bulletin 2 of their criminal record is blank, in particular to avoid any perpetrator of violent, racist or harassment acts, underlines the environmentalist MP Sabrina Sebaihi, at the origin of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the sporting world.

But, she adds, while“one in seven children experience violence in sports before reaching the age of majority, according to a Council of Europe report”there remains “a lot of progress to be made”.