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Sport: “Between the child and his trainer, a very strong relationship”

The cross : What is a good coach?

Hubert Ripoll: A good trainer takes the child where he wants to go. He is someone who brings him attention and with whom he can have a special relationship. In short, he is someone who trusts, in whom we trust and who supports the athlete’s project.

→ INVESTIGATION. “We need to set up a framework without stifling passion”: child-athletes, parents in the second line

We often speak of the coach-trained “couple”. What is the order of this relationship?

HR: The child and his trainer form a very strong emotional relationship, without which not much happens. On both sides, we get involved and we project an ideal. The coach is the one who will help the child to achieve fulfillment. Inevitably, the adult, who has a position of authority, will play on a field which is more or less close to that of the parents. Sometimes, children with family difficulties find in the coach a substitute for the father or more rarely for the mother. This attachment is positive when the relationship is healthy. But the bond of subordination that exists between a trainer and the athlete can also lead to abuses.

→ TESTIMONIALS. Brotherhoods of champions

What are the limits not to be exceeded?

HR: It is first up to the coach to set the limits. It is up to him to measure this physical, emotional and psychological proximity. There is a “moral ethic” of the coach-coach relationship. The child does not belong to his trainer and the latter must not abuse the power he has over him. However, if there is abuse (psychological abuse, inhuman training methods, even sexual violence, etc.), we do not always realize it immediately.

→ READ. School, leisure, institutions… The prevention of sexual violence against minors is getting organized

It is essential that the parents are in a relationship of trust with the coach but it is also necessary that they remain alert in order to be able to detect abnormal behavior. The abuses of people who have authority exist, not only in the world of sport (2). We must be aware of this, without falling into excessive mistrust.

How does it happen when the coach is also the mother or the father?

HR: There are unfortunately more examples where this relationship is dysfunctional. There are famous stories like those of tennis champions Marion Bartoli or Mary Pierce who were both coached by their father. Tensions are often exacerbated because everyone’s place is no longer clearly defined. Relationships can be confrontational or obsessive. The risk, when the parent is also the coach, is that the child becomes for the father or mother a substitute for the champion that he or she was not. But nothing beats the balance of a child, especially not a medal.

(1) Author of The Champions and their emotions, understanding self-control, Payot, 224 p., € 18.

(2) By revealing the considerable extent of sexual abuse in the church, Ciase also confirmed that other institutions were not spared. Thus, 0.28% of people who have attended sports clubs report having suffered sexual violence in their childhood.


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