Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones and Words Can Really Hurt Me: Abusive Coaching in Sport and Performing Arts

April 18, 2018

Ryerson University School of Performance, Studio Theatre, 345 Yonge St, Toronto, M5B 2K3

This event is part of our Research for Practice (R4P) Talk Series.

Hosted by Ryerson University School of Performance.

Click here to download the event poster.

“No pain, no gain” attitudes can cause athletes, performers, parents and coaches alike to justify abusive coaching when it occurs. Although many harmful coaching behaviours such as demeaning comments, belittlement, and physical conditioning as punishment may have been common practice in the past, they are no longer acceptable in sport and performing arts.

In this presentation, Dr. Ashley Stirling explores the concept of athlete maltreatment as a way to open a conversation about abusive coaching in arts settings. Delve into current research on abuse within coach-athlete relations in order to understand why it occurs and how it can be prevented. Learn how you might intervene in cases of maltreatment as a coach, parent, performer or bystander, and how to create positive and healthy experiences for performing artists.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand what abusive coaching is and why it happens
  • Explore the connections between sports and arts settings
  • Learn strategies for preventing and intervening in abusive situations


Dr. Ashley Stirling PhD., is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at the University of Toronto. She has conducted several research projects on high-performance athletes’ experiences of maltreatment in sport and strategies for athlete protection. In 2007, Ashley received the Thesis Award from the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), and in 2009, she was awarded the Young Investigator Award by the European College of Sport Science (ECSS) for her research on athlete emotional abuse. In 2012, Ashley co-wrote a coach education module on creating positive and healthy sport experiences for the Coaching Association of Canada. She has presented at numerous international conferences and has several publications in the areas of athlete welfare and high performance sport participation.

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Dr. Ashley Stirling PhD




Ryerson University School of Performance, Studio Theatre, 345 Yonge St, Toronto, M5B 2K3




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“The services provided by The Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre have been invaluable; without the Joysanne Sidimus Fund, I would not have afforded the treatment and could not have paid to receive it elsewhere. The resources offered by this special place are indispensable to the artists of our community!”

- Anonymous, Visual Artist on the Joysanne Sidimus Fund managed by the Artists’ Health Alliance