An intimate (sexual) relationship between a coach and athlete has the potential to be damaging even if it doesn't constitute harassment.
Athletes, coaches and sports administrators need to be aware of the potential problems that such a relationship can create for the coach, athlete, team members and the sports organisation.
Information to help you understand the issue
- Not every intimate relationship between a coach and player is of concern. Many club teams are coached by a member's husband, wife, partner, relative or friend.
- Relationships where there is a great disparity between a coach and athlete in terms of authority, maturity, status and dependence have the potential to be harmful, even if the athlete has reached the legal age of consent.
Factors to consider when assessing potential harm include:
- the age of the athlete
- the potential for 'grooming' or undue influence
- differences in authority or status
- patterns of inappropriate behaviour (e.g., has the coach had previous relationships with players?)
- the impact on the team and the club
- marketing and sponsorship opportunities for the club
- possible impact on the sport's public image.
While an intimate relationship between an adult coach and adult athlete is not unlawful, an intimate relationship between an adult coach and athlete under the age of consent is illegal.