Intervening with coaches to promote awareness and prevention of weight pressures in cheerleaders


Research has found that athletes, particularly those involved in “aesthetically oriented” sports, experience significant pressures for thinness and are at increased risk for developing eating disorders. This study targeted cheerleading coaches as potential change agents by training them to recognize the symptoms of eating disorders and reduce the pressures for thinness among their squads. Cheerleading coaches at national or regional conferences attended an intervention workshop or a control workshop. Coaches who attended the intervention workshop received information regarding negative coaching behaviors, the symptoms of eating disorders, and ways to manage athletes with eating disorders. In addition, intervention coaches were encouraged to participate in six intervention strategies (e.g., reading materials, video, parent handouts, etc.) after attending the workshop. Eight months following the workshop, the coaches completed an assessment battery designed to test the effectiveness of the entire intervention. The results indicated that the intervention was successful in producing behavior changes in coaches. However, the intervention was less successful in producing long-term change in knowledge about eating disorders. These findings imply that interventions can be implemented by important adult figures (e.g., coaches, teachers) but the overall effectiveness of these interventions must be enhanced in order to have a significant and long-term impact.



Document Type





eating disorders, prevention, athletes, coaches, intervention

Publication Date


Journal Title

Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity