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Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma



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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Despite widespread anecdotal accounts of coaches’ emotional abuse in intercollegiate sports, empirical literature is lacking. To address this gap, the present exploratory study was designed to explore how former intercollegiate student-athletes interpreted experiences of emotionally abusive coaching. Former female NCAA and NJCAA student-athletes (N = 14; Mage = 25.3 years) took part in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Data were interpreted using a constructivist grounded theory approach. The final product of the research was a three-stage grounded theory explaining how former student-athletes interpret their experiences of emotional abuse over time organized into sections on antecedents to abuse, experiences and actions within the abusive program, and after the abuse. Implications for this work include the idea that individual student-athletes may have different experiences and recollections of coaches’ emotionally abusive behavior and that intercollegiate student-athletes are able to discern between “hard, but fair” coaching practices and emotionally abusive coaching practices.


© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.