“He yells because he cares”: jury perceptions of emotional abuse from a sports coach toward child athletes

Kyle P. Rawn, Andrea Pals, Jonathan M. Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In recent years, several instances of coach-perpetrated emotional abuse toward athletes have surfaced, such as in the case of Mike Teti, a U.S. Olympic rowing coach. Emotional abuse in the realm of sports seems to occur in the context of a coach “helping the athlete reach their potential.” However, little to no research exists on how these cases are viewed in the courtroom. In the present study, a 2 (Victim Age: 9-year-old x 17-year-old victim) x 2 (Victim Gender) x 2 (Participant Gender) between-participants design was used to investigate civil court decisions when a male soccer coach was sued by an athlete’s family for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. One hundred seventy-seven participants recruited from Mechanical Turk read a trial summary and answered questions about the trial. Results revealed that male victims received fewer pro-victim judgments (i.e., plaintiff decisions), and this relationship was due to participants perceiving male victims as lower in emotional distress, showing less sympathy for the male victim, and judging the coach as being less to blame. In addition, male participants and previous involvement in sports led to more pro-defendant judgments. Results are discussed in terms of psychological theory and courtroom implications are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-297
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Trauma, Child Custody and Child Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Abuse
  • children’s sports
  • civil court
  • coaching
  • emotional abuse
  • legal decision-making;
  • male victims
  • mock jurors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Law


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