A study of youth sports found evidence of cheating, taunting, even intentionally trying to hurt an opponent.

And the bad behavior wasn't limited to the kids. Some coaches admitted yelling at athletes -- even verbally abusing them, and some players said they were struck.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis and at Notre Dame. It involved 803 athletes ages 9 to 15, along with 189 parents and 61 coaches. Results will be published Thursday in the Journal of Research in Character Education.

Among the findings:

* Nearly one in 10 young athletes admitted cheating.

* 13 percent said they have tried to hurt an opponent.

* 31 percent had argued with an official.

* 13 percent had made fun of a less-skilled teammate.

"Even more disturbing is the number of coaches whose behavior fosters unhealthy climates," said Brenda Bredemeier, associate professor at Missouri-St. Louis and an author of the study.

Seven percent of coaches encouraged athletes to cheat, and 8 percent encouraged their athletes to hurt an opponent, the young athletes told researchers. No coaches admitted either encouraging cheating or injury.

But more than one-third of coaches said they yelled at players for making mistakes, and one-fifth made fun of a team member. Four percent of athletes said their coaches had hit, kicked or slapped them.

"If our sample is representative of the larger youth sport population, this finding would suggest that there are nearly 2 million kids being physically abused by their coaches each year," said David Shields, an education professor at Missouri-St. Louis and another author of the study.

-- From News Services