Physical contact


Physical contact in a sports environment can be appropriate and beneficial when it is used to: 

  • teach pertinent techniques;
  • help in developing specific skills;
  • treat an injury; 
  • prevent an injury or an accident;
  • comfort or congratulate the athlete. 
Physical contact forms an integral part of training. Coaches and sports professionals have various reasons to touch athletes. Those reasons vary in nature. They can be affective (to congratulate, comfort, or to reinforce a feeling of cohesion, etc.), behavioural (to teach techniques, help in developing specific skills, bring attention to a certain aspect, etc.), related to safety (to prevent or treat an injury, to relax muscles, etc.) and cultural (to shake or clap an opponent’s hand at the end of a game, etc.). No matter the importance or the necessity of physical contact in a sports environment, it has to be performed and used in an appropriate manner. Physical contact can be quite beneficial for youth development, as well as for their social and emotional well-being. [3; 23; 25; 36]


Appropriate use of physical contact* Inappropriate use of physical contact*


  • To give an athlete a congratulatory “high five”
  • To position an athlete’s arms or legs to teach pertinent techniques and adjust his or her movements
  • To support or catch an athlete to prevent an injury or an accident
  • To massage a cramped area with the athlete’s consent
  • To put one’s hand on an athlete’s shoulder, back or head to recognize his or her efforts
  • To gather team members in a group hug to reinforce the team’s cohesion
  • To shake an opponent’s hand at the end of a game




*Encourage athletes to express their concerns with regard to certain physical contacts that might make them uncomfortable and keep an eye out for their non-verbal language at all times.