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A way forward? Using narrative pedagogy to prevent abusive behaviour towards young referees

Research project There is ongoing evidence in Sweden that young referees must deal with abusive behaviour in sport. Surprisingly little research has been conducted in this area.

The specific aims of the study are twofold; First to analyse the potential of using narrative pedagogy involving sport coaches to change the behaviour and prevent emotional abuse towards young referees and, second to create knowledge of coaches’ views on young referees’ experiences of gendered abusive behaviour.

Head of project

Inger Eliasson
Associate professor
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2021-01-01 2023-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Education

Research area

Pedagogy

External funding

Swedish Research Council for Sport Science

Project description

Background

There is ongoing evidence in Sweden that young referees must deal with abusive behaviour in sport. In recent articles Expressen describes what young referees must put up with. A 17-year-old football referee says: “I am often forced to hear how players, coaches and parents yell and shout ugly words at me”. This echo’s the results from a recent study on emotional abuse whereby young referees were shown to face expressions like; "you have to wake up", "referee-devil” [domarjävel]", "are you blind" etc. (Eliasson, 2020).  Eliasson discuss the lack of methods and initiatives to change this behaviour in relation to the need for protection of young referees.

Surprisingly little research has been conducted in this area, especially regarding young referees. Previous research has mostly been centred around adult referees (Wicker & Frick, 2016) besides Eliasson (2020). However, abusive behaviour towards referees is a severe obstacle when it comes to recruitment of match officials in sport. All young people have the right to be protected from all forms of violence, including mental violence and emotional abuse (UNCRC).

Aim

The overarching purpose of this research project is to contribute with new knowledge about how to prevent emotional abuse towards young referees within competitive team sport environment in Sweden. The specific aims of the study are twofold; First to analyse the potential of using narrative pedagogy involving sport coaches to change the behaviour and prevent emotional abuse towards young referees and, second to create knowledge of coaches’ views on young referees’ experiences of gendered abusive behaviour.

Method

The study will be conducted with coaches working with football and floorball teams which compete in leagues that are officiated by young referees. To enable an analysis of the potential of narrative pedagogical tools for behavioural change, and to provide comprehensive knowledge about coaches’ perspectives on emotional abuse towards young referees, a mixed method design including narrative story-telling, interviews and diaries will be used.

Implications

One important implication is the delivery of knowledge on educational models to change abusive behaviour in sport which will be useful for sport-governing bodies when developing a trustworthy management of protection of young referees and of coach education.

Due to the engagement of coaches in actual practice of sport clubs, the research will help to develop codes of conduct to promote safe and positive environments for young referees, as well as support sport organisations to fulfil the principles of child protection articulated in Swedish sport policies.  

External funding