Parents, it’s easy to assume that bullying won’t strike your sports kids.
Truth is, bullying is rampant in youth sports today.
Kids bully each other and even coaches bully kids… Even parents bully each other!
The weaker players are not always the targets. Often, strong players and performers are the targets of bullies because the aggressors are jealous.
What clues do you need to look for to identify that your young athletes are the subjects of bullying?
Bullying can have a huge effect on how kids view sports. It can hurt young athletes’ self–esteem and prompt them to drop out of sports. Children and teens don’t feel safe in sports if they’re being harassed, teased or threatened.
Often, young athletes’ first reaction to being treated this way is shame. They feel as if they somehow caused kids to treat them badly. They may also say they don’t want to play sports anymore. Or they may try to avoid going to practices or games.
If this happens, it’s critical that you try to understand what’s going on. Attend a few practices. Talk to other parents. Make sure you’re on the alert during games. Most importantly, open the lines of communicationwith your kids. Encourage them to talk to you about any bullying they experience or witness.
And, if you discover that your kids are being bullied, it’s important that you intervene as soon as possible. Begin by talking to the coach, but if that doesn’t change things, go to the league’s administration. Some parents have taken bullying as far as the courts to stop it.
Your young athletes can also cope with bullying by taking advantage of mental game strategies. For example, they need to stop focusing on or obsessing on the bullies—unless, of course, they’re in danger. If that’s the case, you might consider removing them from the team temporarily, until you can address the situation.
To cope with bullies, kids need to build their confidence, stop worrying about what others think, and stop comparing themselves to others.
Let’s take the third tip. When kids compare themselves to others, they put others—often, the bullies—up on a pedestal and fail to see what’s great about their own game…
They need to learn to STOP focusing on others and focus on their own skills and talents. They may be great team players or gamers who come through in a pinch or effective leaders and communicators.
Want to learn more about how to address bullying in youth sports?
Check out our program, which is really two programs in one. It teaches kids how to toughen up their mental game and gives tips from bullying experts—tips that can be applied to other areas of their lives.
It gives parents tools for fighting bullying and lobbying for an inclusive, safe team culture.