How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Harassment

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sports through education, resources and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sports community recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sports. For more information, please visit safesport.org.

Sports are an incredibly constructive outlet for individuals, in part because athletes are judged solely on their abilities and performance. In this environment, hard work, persistence and improvement are defining characteristics. Harassment based on race, gender or sexual orientation affects team cohesion, performance and an individual’s ability to focus on building skills and enjoy competition. As with bullying and hazing, coaches and staff can create a supportive environment for sports by setting a zero-tolerance policy.


Harassment is repeated and/or severe conduct that (a) causes fear, humiliation or annoyance, (b) offends or degrades, (c) creates a hostile environment (as defined above), or (d) reflects discriminatory bias in an attempt to establish dominance, superiority or power over an individual or group based on age, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, national origin, or mental or physical disability; or (e) any act or conduct described as harassment under federal or state law. Whether conduct is harassing depends on the totality of the circumstances, including the nature, frequency, intensity, location, context, and duration of the behavior. Examples of Harassment include:

Physical offenses:
• Hitting, pushing, punching, beating, biting, striking, kicking, choking or slapping an athlete or participant.
• Throwing at or hitting an athlete with objects, including sporting equipment.

Non-physical offenses:
• Making negative or disparaging comments about an athlete’s sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, religion, skin color or ethnic traits.
• Displaying offensive materials, gestures or symbols.
• Withholding or reducing an athlete’s playing time based on his or her sexual orientation.


Conduct may not rise to the level of Harassment if it is merely rude (inadvertently saying or doing something hurtful), mean (purposefully saying or doing something hurtful, but not as part of a pattern of behavior), or arising from conflict or struggle between persons who perceive they have incompatible views and/or positions. Harassment does not include professionally accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, appropriate discipline, or improved Athlete performance. 

Courtesy of The United States Olympic Committee.