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3 Int'l J. Soc. Sci. Stud. 56 (2015)
The Importance of Touch in Sport: Athletes' and Coaches' Reflections

handle is hein.journals/ijsoctu3 and id is 611 raw text is: 

                                                                         International Journal of Social Science Studies
                                                                                         Vol. 3, No. 4; July 2015
          Fam       e                                                            ISSN 2324-8033 E-ISSN 2324-8041
                                                                                  Published by Redfame Publishing
                                                                                      URL:  http://ijsss.redfame.com

   The Importance of Touch in Sport: Athletes' and Coaches' Reflections

       Gretchen A. Kerr', Ashley E. Stirling', Amanda L. Heron, Ellen A. MacPherson', & Jenessa M. Banwell
 Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
 Correspondence: Gretchen A.  Kerr, Ph.D., Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto,
 Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2W6, Canada.

 Received: April 30, 2015         Accepted: May  15, 2015           Available online: June 10, 2015
 doi: 10.11 114/ijsss.v3i4.803    URL:  http://dx.doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v3i4.803

This study examined athletes' and coaches' experiences of positive touch within the coach-athlete relationship, including
examples  of positive touch, reasons for the use  of touch, and  factors affecting athletes' acceptance of touch.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 coaches and 10 athletes from various sports. Data were coded using
inductive and deductive coding techniques. All participants shared examples of positive touch in sport including: hugs,
high fives, physical manipulation of the body, pats on the back, hand shaking, and spotting. Positive touch was reportedly
used for affective, behavioural, safety, and cultural reasons. Touch was viewed by these athletes and coaches as being
important and even necessary in the sport environment and within the coach-athlete relationship provided that it was
individualized and contextualized. The findings are interpreted to suggest that the recent trend to avoid touch in
child-populated domains ignores the many benefits of touch for health, instruction, and development.
Keywords:  coaching; athlete welfare; athlete-coach relationship; positive touch
1. Introduction
1.1. Touch Aversion in the Coach Athlete Relationship
In light of emerging recognition of the problem of sexual abuse and harassment of young athletes by their coach, and the
associated inappropriate and harmful touching behaviours that can occur in the context of sport (Brackenridge, 2001),
there has been a recent trend to limit or to avoid touch in the coach-athlete relationship (Bringer, Brackenridge, &
Johnston, 2002; Piper, Garratt, & Taylor, 2013). A provocative contradiction exists however, regarding the relationship
between the use of touch in sport and the welfare of athletes. On one hand, by prioritizing the avoidance of harm to young
people, we may  have pathologized the use of touch in sport by discouraging its use. On the other hand, a wealth of
literature supports the positive benefits of touch (Ardiel & Rankin, 2010; Caulfield, 2000; Tobin, 2008), thus, by adopting
an athlete welfare perspective, coaches should be touching athletes for optimal health and development. Learning more
about athletes' and coaches' reflections on and experiences with the use of positive touch in the coach-athlete relationship
may  shed light on this contradiction.
In this section the importance of touch is reviewed followed by a critical summary of previous research on the use of touch
in the coach-athlete relationship. Using this literature the purpose statement is defined. For the purposes of this research,
'touch' is understood to be an experience of inter-relational physical contact. 'Positive touch' is understood to be an
experience of inter-relational physical contact intentionally directed by one person towards another and deemed to be of
benefit to the recipient.
1.2. The Importance of Touch
There is a long and rich history of research on the importance of touch for the healthy growth and development of young
people (Ardiel & Rankin, 2010; Caulfield, 2000; Tobin, 2008). For example, early studies of children in orphanages in
England during World  War II revealed that without touch, children became morose and in some cases, died, in spite of
adequate nutrition and proper hygiene (Goldfarb, 1943). Subsequent research supported the findings that failure to meet
tactile and stimulation needs produced poor health outcomes and marked developmental delays in infants and children
(Frank, Klass, Earls, & Eisenberg, 1996). More recently, research has focused on the enriching effects of touch including
positive influences on the physical growth, IQ scores, and the social-emotional well-being of children (Blackwell, 2000).
Evidence also exists to indicate the health promoting benefits of touch for adults. More specifically, touch therapies such
as massage therapy, pet therapy, and hug therapy have been shown  to enhance general well-being (Crawford, 2003;


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