College athletes with abusive coaches more willing to cheat

July 07, 2014

WASHINGTON -- College athletes who have abusive coaches are more willing to cheat in order to win than players with more ethical coaches, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association and based on surveys from almost 20,000 student athletes at more than 600 colleges across the country.

"Ethical behavior of coaches is always in the spotlight," said lead researcher Mariya Yukhymenko, PhD, a visiting research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Our study found several negative effects related to abusive coaches, including a willingness by players to cheat to win games."

Men's teams were much more willing to cheat than women's teams, according to the study, and men's football, basketball and baseball teams reported the highest willingness to cheat at large universities in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, where players are often under intense pressure to win.

"Many student athletes in Division I schools are looking to go into professional sports after graduation," Yukhymenko said. "They are striving to do well so that they will be noticed, and they really want to score more points and bring victories to their teams."

Both men's and women's basketball teams were much more likely to report they had abusive coaches than any other sport, although the reasons weren't clear from the study, said researcher Thomas Paskus, PhD, a quantitative psychologist and the NCAA's principal research scientist. Almost one-third (31 percent) of male basketball players and one in four female basketball players at Division I schools said their head coaches put them down in front of others, according to the survey results. "I think that raises some questions about the culture in that sport, even though there are a lot of coaches doing it the right way," Paskus said.

Questions about the ethical or abusive behavior of coaches were added to the Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students (GOALS) survey conducted in 2010 by the NCAA. The quadrennial survey will be conducted again in fall 2014. The survey included 19,920 athletes (40 percent women) from 609 colleges, representing 11 men's and 13 women's sports sanctioned by the NCAA. The research, based on a detailed analysis of the survey results, was published in the APA journal Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology.

Abusive behavior by college coaches has been a growing concern, following several high-profile incidents of coaches being fired or sued by players for alleged abusive behavior, including screaming insults, shoving or kicking athletes. This study looked only at verbal abuse by asking players whether a coach ridiculed or put them down in front of others. The study did not determine whether abusive coaches actively encouraged or permitted cheating by their teams, but there was a correlation between abusive coaches and an increased willingness by players to cheat in order to win.

Players who said they had abusive coaches also were more likely to report that their coaches didn't create an inclusive team environment and that both their coaches and teammates were less respectful of people from other racial or ethnic groups and less accepting of differing viewpoints and cultures, according to the study.

"Coaches are role models for their athletes," Yukhymenko said. "The way they behave is observed by student athletes and is often repeated."

Players with more ethical coaches were more likely to be happy about their college choice and feel more included on their teams. Some players were willing to cheat even if they had an ethical coach, but the likelihood of cheating increased for players with abusive coaches, the study found.

The perceived ethical climate at the colleges had surprisingly strong correlations with whether athletes were willing to cheat, Yukhymenko said. Athletes were less willing to cheat if they reported that their school strongly valued academic honesty and encouraged student athletes to be positive role models and practice good sportsmanship, the study found.

The researchers recommended that college athletic departments conduct workshops or other programs to improve ethical leadership by coaches. "The impact that athletic coaches have on their athletes potentially affects everything from retention and chances of graduation to how these student athletes coach future generations of young athletes," the study noted.
-end-
Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/spy-0000023.pdf

"The Relationship Between Ethical and Abusive Coaching Behaviors and Student Athlete Well-Being," Mariya A. Yukhymenko, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; Thomas S. Paskus, PhD, National Collegiate Athletic Association; and Michael E. Brown, PhD, Pennsylvania State University-Erie; Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology; online July 7, 2014.

Contact: Mariya A. Yukhymenko at yukhym@uic.edu or (312) 413-0547.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

American Psychological Association

Related Athletes Articles from Brightsurf:

51% of Americans agree paying college athletes should be allowed
More Americans than not believe that college athletes should be allowed to be paid more than what it costs them to go to school, a new national study of nearly 4,000 people suggests.

Menstrual dysfunction is more common among young athletes than among non-athletes
Menstrual dysfunction is more prevalent in young Finnish athletes than it is among non-athletes of a similar age, but athletes experience less body weight dissatisfaction than non-athletes do.

Athletes don't benefit from relying on a coach for too long
Athletes increasingly relying on a coach over the course of a season may be a sign that they aren't progressing in their development, according to new research from Binghamton University.

Olympic athletes should be mindful of their biological clocks
Biological clocks have sizeable effects on the performance of elite athletes.

Female athletes at risk for nutritional deficiencies
Two decades of research among female athletes over the age of 13 years shows that a lack of nutrition knowledge about what they need to eat to stay healthy and compete may contribute to poor performance, low energy and nutrient intake, and potential health risks, according to a Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study.

Electrocardiogram shows value in college athletes' screens
Research published today indicates that screenings that incorporate an ECG are more effective at detecting cardiac conditions that put athletes at risk, and more efficient in terms of cost-per-diagnosis of at-risk players, than screenings involving only a physical exam and patient history.

How kirigami can help us study the muscular activity of athletes
Scientists devise an elastic and durable skin-contact patch for measuring the electromyographic activity of the palm muscle inspired by ancient Japanese paper crafts.

Study examines attitudes toward transgender athletes
As several states draft legislation that would force student-athletes to play as their gender identified on their birth certificate instead of on a team that matches their gender identity, a team of political scientists investigated underlying factors that drive public opinion on transgender athletes.

The mind-muscle connection: For aesthetes, not athletes?
The 'mind-muscle connection.' Ancient lore for bodybuilders, latest buzz for Instragram fitness followers.

Sudden cardiac arrest in athletes: Prevention and management
It's marathon season, and every so often a news report will focus on an athlete who has collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.

Read More: Athletes News and Athletes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.