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

Gretchen A Kerr, Ashley E. Stirling, Amanda Heron, Ellen A. MacPherson, Jenessa M. Banwell


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’ acceptability 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.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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