The implementation of ethical standards in youth high performance sports as evidenced in the trainers behaviour

Por: Kristina Bohnstedt.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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In 1984, Meinberg [1] developed a set of principles for a humane high-performance sport for children in the wake of a public debate on the participation of children and teenagers in high-performance sports. Given their broad-based character, these principles can be taken as outlining an ethical foundation. The paper investigates whether child and teenage high-performance athletes think that their trainers observe Meinberg’s 13 ethical principles, and whether there is a correlation between their implementation and other factors such as the kind of sport, gender, etc.
Research data were collected through a survey using a standardized questionnaire. Under this survey, 181 students (age 14-18) of different sports high schools (Coubertin-High School Berlin, Pierre-de-Coubertin-High School Erfurt, Heinrich-Heine-High School Kaiserslautern, Karthause High School Koblenz and the House of Athletes of the Olympic Centre Frankfurt-Rhein-Main) in Germany replied to the questionnaire in writing. The replies were analysed with the statistics programme SPSS 11.0.


The results show that the majority of trainers are largely guided by ethical principles in their work with the young high-performance athletes. At the same time, however, the athletes also noted incidences of unethical behaviour. In the implementation of the individual principles, up to 40% of the trainers transgress ethical boundaries. Only in isolated incidences, correlations between the kind of sport and transgressions of individual principles could be found. As no broader patterns could be observed, this indicates that the adherence to ethical principles depends more on the individual personality of the trainer rather than on other factors.

Discussion / Conclusions

The survey results show that ethical principles should not be developed and verified for specific kinds of sports. The general ethical principles are flexible enough to adapt the trainer’s behaviour to the individual athlete and the specific situation. In analysing the implementation of ethical principles, more attention should be given to a teleological ethic alongside the ethic of principles, as this allows for more focus on the individual athlete and the specific situation in the trainer’s behaviour. The limitations of this empirical research are that the standardized questionnaire is not able to register situation-specific behaviour. It was tried to counteract this problem by taking into consideration the teleological aspects at the interpretation of the results.


[1]. Meinberg, E. (1984). Kinderhochleistungssport: Fremdbestimmung oder Selbstentfaltung? Köln, Verlag Strauß.






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