Much of the literature regarding abuse in athletics has focused on the effects these actions have on the athletes both short and long term. In relation to ethics, such research has been primarily focused on how ethics effects all aspects of athletics. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine if factors that cause coaches to victimize athletes are related to a lack of ethical understanding. This qualitative phenomenological research design was used to highlight emerging themes revealed during the study. Thirteen purposely selected individuals, labeled as athlete, athlete/coach, or coach, participated in one-on-one semi structured interviews. The participants' interviews were conducted independently, reflecting a wide range of opinions and experiences. The conceptual framework included the theories of self-perception and Nash's Three Moral Languages that guide ethical behavior. The use of the seven constructs as identifiers allowed for recommendations for athletes, coaches, the National Governing Bodies (NGB's), and the United States Olympic Committee. For athletes, high-achieving or otherwise, this study provided a perspective into not only what allowed these individuals to achieve their athletic and coaching goals, but also a view into the issues they faced related to abuse and experiencing unethical situations. For coaches, their beliefs of what is acceptable behavior of athlete and coach is apparent to others on the field of play. However, their own self-perception of what is acceptable might be completely different. The ability to act ethically is dependent on coaches connecting their own actions to decisions that would be considered ethical according to the rules or guidelines of their sport. Recommendations include areas regarding teaching ethics to athletes as part of sports programs beginning in the early years of education, and better educating coaches to not put themselves in unethical situations. Though education is a factor in the quality of life post athletics, this and other research studies suggest that abuse of athletes can cause mental, physical, and emotional issues as these individuals transition into life post-athletics.


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Graduation Date





Hopp, Carolyn


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Learning Sciences and Educational Research

Degree Program





CFE0008295; DP0023732





Release Date

December 2020

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)