Bullying has been brought to national attention due to several high-profile tragedies. Bullying in youth sports has been part of the game for decades. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so.
There are many ways that coaches, parents, referees, volunteers, spectators and kids can work together to keep bullying out of youth sports.
Parents must be educated about the effects of bullying on a victim, the victim’s family, and society as a whole. Some parents may not be willing to believe that their child is the culprit or may try to place the blame upon the victim. Involving coaches and sponsors in the conversation can help to ensure that communication is clear.
Call Out Negative Behavior
Institute a clear policy that negative behavior is not allowed by anyone in any aspect of youth sports. Bullying may begin with what seems like simple name-calling or teasing about poor performance. However, the situation can quickly escalate if nothing is done.
Nipping negative behaviors in the bud makes it clear that this type of behavior is not acceptable in youth sports. Every youth sports organization should maintain a zero-tolerance rule that applies to:
Become Familiar with Bullying Risk Factors
Understanding the risk factors of becoming a bully can help parents and coaches deter the behavior. Many bullies come from homes where such behavior is typical. There may also be domestic violence in the household.
Bullies often have a short fuse and a bad temper. They may use aggression to solve problems both on and off the field.
Parents and coaches can be proactive at keeping bullying out of youth sports. Coaches can make themselves available to parents and players who need to report problem behavior. Parents can be open and honest with their children about reporting problems and setting good examples of how to treat others. Parents can also teach their children the zero-tolerance rule and not go along with others who are bullying.
Youth sports affords kids the opportunity to form strong relationships, be physically active and learn new skills. Eliminating bullying in youth sports requires that parents, coaches and the community work together to set positive examples, enforce a zero-tolerance policy and create an environment in which everyone is welcome.