The 2021 CARE Report (Census of Athlete Rights Experiences) is the first global study to look at elite athletes’ experiences to understand whether and how their rights were protected as children in sport. 

During the months of December 2019 – June 2020 an online questionnaire was shared with both currently active as well as former professional athletes affiliated with World Players in order to understand their childhood experiences in organized sport. The survey was made available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Japanese.

The questionnaire asked participants about their childhood experiences of the full range of rights as well as their current well-being. A total sample of 297 athletes completed the questionnaire and 13 in-depth individual interviews were conducted. In order to participate, respondents had to be a current or former professional athlete over the age of 18.  

“I remember I broke my arm. Not in an athletic environment in my school. But my coach thought it was reasonable to tape up the arm, as it was a bent arm cast, and swim with it.”

National Swimmer

“I told my coach about it (sexual harassment), nothing was done. You know, the Federation knew about this guy doing things, and nothing was done. So the story of my career was, nothing was done to correct for the injustices like this.”

International Athlete

“….my rights as a girl child were not protected. The national team environment was highly sexualized. They were all male coaches. That environment was very negative.”

International Swimmer

“I feel very comfortable saying that he abused me mentally. Yeah, there was constant psychological manipulation.”

International Athlete

“They knew that I was being manipulated and it happened with many people before me. We were a very successful club, but the women came out like shells of themselves, you know, and everybody around us knew. But nobody did anything or felt they could do anything. People called us the anorexic swim team, because we were so skinny. So it was a known factor that these things were happening. Makes it even worse, doesn't it?”

Female Olympian

“You don't feel safe in an environment where you feel that you don't have agency. So I think I spent a lot of time feeling as though I didn't have any control over what happened to me in my life. I didn't have the ability to say no. I didn't have the ability to seek help from anyone, I felt very isolated.”

International Athlete

“I think that it's very important for us to have a Players Association…..I was really impressed with the collective bargaining and the rights and just the ability to speak and to have some impact on the athletes organizations, on the governing bodies, and that's really missing in my country.”

Female International Competitor

“Somebody has to be looking out for them, because they don’t have a voice… they don’t have any awareness of something that is impacting them, you know, or any way to change it, and they’re relying on other people to put the protections in place to make the environment safe.”

Female International


of athletes reported having experienced one form of physical abuse at least once as a child in sport.

of athletes reported having experienced one form of emotional abuse at least once as a child in sport.
of athletes were not always aware they had rights when they were children in sports.
of athletes were never aware of a union/player association before the age of 18.

of athletes did not feel sport always promoted their mental health.
of athletes experienced economic exploitation as a child athlete.
of athletes felt that their best interests were not always taken into account.
of athletes reported having experienced one form of sexual abuse at least once as a child in sport.

Everyone has a role to play to help embed these pillars throughout sport to ensure that the rights of all children are always respected: sports organisations, governments, civil society and trade unions, player associations, sponsors.

The RIGHTS pillars for building sport which respects the rights of all children


• Gigi Alford, Sport should commit to international standards for child protection (Play the Game): Full text

• World Players statement from Executive Director Brendan Schwab on safeguarding the rights of child athletes: Watch video

• Equal Times article by World Players Director of Sport and Human Rights, Gigi Alford: “Child athletes lose big on lagging rights in sport”

• World Players Declaration on Safeguarding the Rights of Child Athletes: Full text and Infographic

• AthletesCAN, a World Players Association associate affiliate, and University of Toronto study: Prevalence of Maltreatment among Current and Former National Team Athletes in Canada

• Child Rights International Network guest article from Play the Game/Danish Institute for Sports Studies on need for more research on childhood experiences in sport:
 "Victims or winners: Why children’s rights should be the next big issue for sport"

• International Safeguards for Children in Sport: Full text

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