December 21, 2014

When Coaches Yell, Insult and Intimidate Sports Kids

Have your sports kids ever had a coach who yelled at, insulted or intimidated them? If so, read on. We’ve got some tips—and warnings—for you about what we call “bully coaches.”

First of all, our warning. Coaches who teach by being negative or intimidating can really hurt your kids’ confidence and enjoyment of sports. No, these coaches do NOT toughen up your young athletes, as they might insist. They don’t improve kids’ performance, either.

Actually, coaches who bully—either with harsh words or physical harm—can hurt young athletes’ self-esteem, undermine their social skills and make it hard for them to trust. In some cases, these coaches can make kids feel anxious and depressed.

What’s more, coaches who use such negative feedback are generally focused too much on one thing: winning the game or competition. They give kids the message that winning is everything. That makes kids focus too much on outcomes—such as the score or win. It can prevent them from reaping the social and emotional benefits of taking part in sports.

Focusing too much on the score or win also can hurt kids’ performance. They often develop fear of failure. That means they stop taking risks and they play too tentatively. That’s because they’re afraid the coach will yell at them.

Watch for signs that your sports kids are being bullied. They may be afraid of the coach, focus too much on trying to impress the coach, and they may be afraid of going to practice. They may say they want to quit the team.

You, as parents and coaches, can do a lot to help kids who are bullied by their coaches. If you see or hear about a coach who yells at, intimidates or insults kids, you should take action. If you merely sit back and complain, you’re part of the problem. Instead, you need to begin by talking to the coach. You can gently suggest that his or her behavior may hurt kids’ confidence.

If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with the coach’s superiors in the league. If nothing else works, you should consider finding a new team for your young athlete.

Want to learn more about coaches who bully in sports? We recently completed an article about this topic. If you’re already a Kids’ Sports Psychology member, you can access it here:

Coaches Who Bully Kids and What Parents Can Do

At Kids’ Sports Psychology, we offer loads of resources designed to help improve your sports parenting skills and your young athletes’ enjoyment of sports. For example, members can download these e-books:

  • Appreciate Your Talents: How to Stop Making Comparisons
  • 12 Pre-game Tips to Help Kids Trust what they Learned in Practice
  • 7 Strategies to Help Sports Kids Stay Composed after Making Mistakes

But that’s not all. At Kids’ Sports Psychology, you can download more than 17 e-books—some written for parents and some specifically for sports kids. You can also access audio and video programs and articles that help you and your young athletes get the most out of their physical talent. We’ll soon be offering more resources about bullying in sports—a topic that our readers say they need help with.

Help your sports kids reap all the physical, emotional and social benefits of taking part in sports:

Kids’ Sports Psychology for Parents and Coaches

Sincerely,

Patrick Cohn, Ph.D. and Lisa Cohn

P.S. If you’re already a Kids’ Sports Psychology member, remember to visit this page to read our article about coach bullies:

Coaches Who Bully Kids and What Parents Can Do

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Comments

  1. Tamara Massey says:

    Realities Regarding Bully Coaches:

    * They are most certainly NOT the exception anymore.
    * Parents are NOT the problem WHEN IT COMES TO BULLY COACHES. Parents are the problem in other areas, to be sure. But 2 + 2 does not equal 5 here. No way.

    And now an award-winning strategy for effectively dealing with bully coaches and the pathetic parents who support them:

    Don’t Say Anything to the Bully Coach, or any coach for that matter about the bully behavior you are told about or witness (not at first and not unless it causes you to suspect a crime – in case you must report it immediately to the police) – or your kid will likely experience further retribution and be blackballed. Don’t do it. Be patient. Read on.

    You have an opportunity here to teach your kid how the real world works, and the real world does not suffer tattle tales, or tolerate bullies very long, for that matter.

    Remember, the real world loves it when a plan comes together. And that is what you are tasked with here, my friend. ONWARD.

    Teach your kid not to ignore the bullying to the degree they can, and/or to even egg the coach on to more bullying. Debrief your kid every day. You heard me correctly. Fuel to the fire. And we need a bonfire here, an aircraft signal distress beacon FIRE. Realize this right now. You will have to eventually take your kid off the team, for good. BUT FIRST video document the coach’s bully behavior before your kid quits. Make it a game. Because it is one. Only this one is for keeps. You must do this so that the bully coach does NOT know he is being taped, and NO ONE ELSE can know either. Not yet. Patience. Video evidence is key. There are plenty of devices you can aquire to do this very, very effectively. Make sure to get sound and picture. Sound may be more difficult to get, but even if it is choppy, you can have an audio lab enhance and clean it up. We did.

    While you are photo documenting, begin looking for another team for you son or daughter, and get your kid established on the new team. Make up any excuse you can as to why you are quitting, or just stop showing up to practice on the bully coach team. That’s what we did. And not one coach even called to find out why. Fuel to the fire baby. This process might take some time. Be patient. You are crafting Karma and must be slow and deliberate, and work the plan. Work the plan baby.

    Next, after your kid is safe and sound on another team, one without a bully coach, come down on the sorry SOB with your video tape evidence LIKE A TON OF BRICKS – from at least six different angles. That’s the only way to work it with these clowns. Video tape is best, as it gets results. These bully coaches, and their supervisors, managers and administrators above them (most of whom know of and condone the coach’s abusive behaviors) only respond to two things – public SHAME and/or a law suit. Either one works wonders.

    And remember, no matter what you are told, NOTHING ELSE WORKS, including trying to reason with a 40-something, overweight, over-medicated, ego maniachal, narcissistic, has-been, wanna-be, never was, volunteer or even professional COACH. Don’t go there, it is a TRAP. You will loose. Don’t tell any other parents either, not even ones you trust, as they very well may betray your plan and rat you out. Loose lips sink ships. No loose ends.

    Be sure to take your video evidence to the TOP. Request a meeting and only show it when you are there with the suckers. Watch their faces and not the video. Priceless. Make your demands. But you may not have to. In some cases you will get the cold shoulder, you are now radioactive treatment. If this happens, the cure is Youtube. Youtube works great when the athletic league or school admin plays dumb or ignores you or sends a pathetic legal form letter response to you after you show them the video tape you made of the bully coach. Consider contacting the news media. Six angles, remember. Use at least SIX. Don’t question this wisdom. Use all of them. Ton of bricks baby. No mercy. NO QUARTER. This is our country’s future we are talking about. Your kid’s world view or justice is being shaped. Shape it.

    And don’t believe them if thes pencil pusher, red diaper doper baby lawyers threaten you about defamation. Ignore them. Work the plan. They will mess their pants. They don’t have a case, and you can counter sue, BIG TIME. And it only takes a few seconds to upload a vid to the www for EVERYONE to see. Try it. Only make dang sure your kid is off that team and established on another team that they like, or the suckers will just make little Johny’s life worse. Hell, they may even try to influence the coaches on your son or daughter’s new team to blackball him or her. You would be surprised at the good old boy, redneck code of DISHONOR among these cheating sleaze balls. But if your kid is established on the new team before hand and any good, it just makes these creatans look all the more like the jackalopes that they are. If this happens, go to your new coaches in a meeting and just say these words. “I am making a new list. Want to be on it?” Then walk out of the meeting. Clint Eastwood would be proud of you. That’s what we did.

    Your kid will LEARN that bullying is NOT to be tolerated, and there IS a way to really WIN where and when it counts – IN THE REAL WORLD & NOT SOME DIAMOND – because the aftermath of your action will make the game a better place for ALL THE KIDS WHO PLAY. Your child will learn that bullies get what’s coming to them. FIRED. REBUKED. PUBLICLY SHAMED. KICKED OFF. BANNED FROM COACHING.

    It is a beautiful thing when a plan comes together and you get to witness a bully’s own self destruction. Your kid will learn to love and respect wisdom and the proper use of authority designed to get real, lasting results. This will restore their faith in HUMANITY. Teaches them patience too. Teaches them to work the plan – Sun Tzu style. What more could you want, other than a GOOD COACH!? LOL.

    If you try this, please be sure to post the results, as this type of ACTION speaks way louder than all the vitriole and empty words to be found in the comments above, most of which only defend, patronize, and/or excuse or elaborate on bully coach behavior. Bleacher talk. You aren’t in it for bleacher talk my friend. Mums the word. Work the plan.

    We need a ZERO TOLERANCE ETHIC for this sort of crap from coaches, or we will ALL LOOSE the virtues that we hold most dear about competitive sport in our country – HONOR – INTEGRITY – JUSTICE – FAIR PLAY (which is the word that predates ‘sportsmanship’) – and the greatest quality that both bully coaches and the NAZIS lacked . . . COMPASSION for those who do not have authority or power, and rely on others to lead/influence them – i.e. young vulnerable and impressionable athletes under the care and supervision of our now mostly pathetic coaches.

  2. What do I do if this coach looks nice on ice , but my son feels intimidated I locker room before and after the public eye? Ten years old, no parents allowed in locker room.

  3. forgot to mention I don’t play hockey , my son loves the sport and is pretty good. Volunteer coaches who don’t play have kids on team. They play, but my kid can teach them more than what they could ever teach him. So I’m the jerk dad, who wants what is best for my kid. Head coach has a very good player on team as well, just not as good as my boy. Asking my boy,” do you really want to be here” ? Is this normal to get him to leave and make coaches boy be top gun? Very frustrated as this coach is now on the board of directors aswell. Now what?

  4. Sorry again, the team has won one game of two dozen. Coach claims this will improve. I don’t care about winning , I care that my kid improves, and of course has fun. Coach is not concerned about Win loss either. But one thing I learned is ,even as a volunteer , if the kids know more than what I can teach them, I’m not helping too much. This coach knows everything, but can’t teach to save his life. Already looking into another association , but affordability means a lot to my family in these times. I feel I am letting my son down if I can’t afford to go somewhere else, and even more if I keep him where we are at. You get what you can pay for, really hits home now!

  5. John,
    Here’s a response from Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., (http://www.carlpickhardt.com/), our Kids’ Sports Psychology bullying expert. You can find similar questions and answers from him in our new bullying section at KSP.

    To feel intimidated by peers and to be bullied by peers are not the same. In this case, you must try to make a clear distinction.

    “Locker room anxiety” for young people in early adolescence (ages 9 – 13) is extremely common. Some would rather not suit out to play a beloved sport than go through the embarrassment of exposing their undressed bodies to peer review at this very vulnerable age.

    Why vulnerable? At ten years old, your son has cause to feel socially insecure on two counts. First he is separating from childhood and entering adolescence and so is more critical of himself than before. He no longer wants to be defined and treated as just a child, but he doesn’t yet know exactly how he wants to become different and how to act more grown up. He has a more negative mindset about himself as the journey to young adulthood begins.

    Second, the physical changes that come with puberty create acute self-consciousness as he compares himself to the growth of others and regrets his own lack of masculine development. He is troubled by feelings of male inferiority as the journey to young manhood begins.

    Among boys, comparison of bodies is often coupled with phsyical competition, the more developed in ascendance over the less developed. Jock joking can be used to deal with shared anxiety: “Look at Mr. Weenie!” And there is more agressive push and shove, like towell snapping: “Gotcha!”

    As parent, you have to parcel out how much intimidation is rooted in your son’s develpmental insecurities at this age, insecurities that physical growth and confidence will soon overcome, and how much is actually due to incidents of serious mistreatment. So get your son to tell you specifically what is going on, and with what frequency, so you can make an assessment. It may be that your empathetic support, personal coaching, and encouragement will prove enough get him through this uncomfortable time.

    If you have data that there is serious bullying going on in the privacy of the locker room, report that to the coach who can address locker room behavior on the team so that no one crosses the bullying line.

    Best,
    Carl

    P.S.

    You can learn more about our new bullying section here:
    http://www.kidssportspsychology.com/public/department101.cfm
    –Lisa

  6. fedupwithbully says:

    This clip is what happened to our son all season on his varsity basketball team. http://youtu.be/WH2DUOeEcZ4
    We were also told by our son that this coach sailed a basketball into his head, and bloodied his nose at a practice, our son came home complaining about a headache for two days,and a bloody nose that we witnessed, along with players. We watched this coach yell at our son at countless games and make his so anxious and nervous that he would worry more about making mistakes than playing his game. He feared this coach,and has told us that it was the worse coach he has ever had. He was cussed at and told that he was not good enough, in everything that he did. We finally went to principal after deaf ears on head coach, and then to district when no results happened at the high school, no apologies have been given to our son. The district is now investigating trying to sugar coat this over for the coach to stay coaching, the system does not work for the children in the public schools. We are holding firm as the district in our area, in Florida has a zero tolerance to bully and zero tolerance to harassing students. This was a coach an mentor that abused his power. Our child will likely be the one penalized as he can now not stay on a team that the head coach would rather win on than do the right thing.

  7. My daughter plays basketball on her middle school 7th grade basketball team. (she is a 6th grader). That being said, my problem is the fact there is 3 coaches daughter on the team. 2 of them would’nt even see any minutes on anyone elses team, but play all the minutes despite turnovers and seldom ever scoring. Everytime my daughter gets any minutes she produces, currently averages 6 pts, 4 rbs, 2 asst on minimal playing time. (3 to 8 minutes per game). A little example of what i’m talking about, played 12 minutes scored 13 pts, next game plays 3 minutes mop up scores 4 pts. Its like instead of being rewarded she gets punished for playing well, this has gone on all season. She gets into a game with 48 sec left in 1st half and scores 2 back to back baskets and does’nt get back in the game!!! I as a parent am lost on what to do….she has ask the head coach what she needs to do to get more playing time. he told her to keep working hard. I’ve thought about speaking to him but know he would take it out on her. I keep encouraging her to keep on working it will get better, but I’m not sure for the fact 1 coach is freshman and jv coach also. Her confidence is about broken, she told me she didnt know if she wanted to play next year. She has been playing travel ball for 3 yrs. How should I handle this situation with coaches and keeping her confidence up? Its not like im asking for her to start and play the whole game, just quality minutes.

  8. Can it get any worse than it is? This is unfair and coaches often play favorites. This excludes a lot of talented kids. I don’t know if talking to the coach will help… You can go to the school AD and voice your concerns, but the best option is to stick to travel ball and choose your coach wisely–if possible.

  9. My son was abused by his coach during a soccer tournament recently. Our son has played soccer at an elite level, certainly more so than the tournamnent we were at.
    During the second game the coach began screaming at him from the sideline to wake up to himself and switch on. It was not instructive or constructive. It was just humiliating.There was no swearing or name calling that I could hear but our son was visibly shaken by it and began to play very tentatively and did make a mistake. This abuse went on for some time. Our son had been playing well but the game was ebbing and flowing and our coach could smell an unexpected victory coming so he ramped up his efforts from the sideline.
    At half time coach gave other players, one of whom was his own son a pat on the back for good effort I assumed, but turned to our son and angrily thumped his hand in his fist over and over. Our boys lost by one goal.
    After the match away from his peers our son broke down. It was a mixture of humiliation, anger, embarrassment and sadness.
    I felt absolute rage that this man had done this to our wonderful and talented son. I stormed outside to this coach and called him aside stating what I had to say to him had better be said in private.
    I said, ” I know we all get excited and say things in the heat of a game but you absolutely abused and humiliated my son out there. Dont you ever do that to him again.!!!”His response was to deny it and he told me very matter of factly that I could withdraw him if I wished. I said “Im not going to do that but dont you ever do that to him again!!!” I stormed off.
    We later all decided not to continue in the tournament mostly as our son refused to play for that coach again. My husband felt he should continue to play for the sake of his teamates but I said he did not have to put up with that kind of treatment for anyone.
    The manager came to see us and told our son he thought “he was a bigger man than to let that get to him.”
    We had spent a lot of time travelling for training and money to participate in that competition but we packed up and drove home that same evening after only two 30 min games- 360kms.

  10. Our son was abused by his coach during a futsal match recently. The abuse came in the form of a barrage of put downs and screaming rage from this madman. The fact that he did this at all was shocking but the stupidity on this mans part to do this to a player while he is in the heat of a furious match and trying to concentrate and make split second decisions just beggars belief. What a poor coach.
    I could see our wonderful and talented son start to become rattled and lose his confidence.
    After the match away from his peers our son broke down. It was amixture of humiliation, sadness, embarrassment and rage. He is 15 so to be seen crying is a big deal for him.
    I was livid and although my son asked me not to speak to the coach I felt I had to.
    I stormed outside and pulled him aside to speak to him in private, a luxory he did not afford my son when he abused him in front of his teamates, parents and a full grandstand of spectators.
    I said “i know we all get excited and say things in the heat of a game but you absolutely abused my son out there. Being the big man that he is he immediately denied it. I told him I heard it and so did a lot of other people. His next response was to tell me I could feel free to withdraw him from the team. I replied that I was not going to do that but wagging my finger in his face told him never to do that to my son again.
    After returning to my son and husband our son had decided he was not going to play soccer for this man.
    His father felt he should continue for the sake of his teamates but I said that he did not have to put up with that kind of abuse for anyone.
    We packed up and left and travelled the 360kms home.
    It took a mammoth effort in terms of organization,time and money to get us all there for this competition and we went home just 2 hours after it all began.
    Im really not concerned about the lost time and money just about my sons confidence. There is a lot of rivalry in this sport(soccer) amongst local players and I am concerned about the backlash our son will suffer from his peers.Unfortunately I know some of them will be pleased that he was single out like this as they will see it as an opportunity to improve there own position.
    No-one from his team came to see him. The manager came to talk to him and told him he thought he was more of a man than that to let it get to him.
    I am sooooo angry.

  11. My two daughters were bullied by their High School Dance Team coach. The worst of the bullying occurred after the Principal forwarded our emails of concern onto the coach. The coach retaliated against us by bullying our daughters. Our oldest daughter was a Special Needs student and was bullied the worst.

    As parents we followed school policy when channeling our complaints, first to the coach, when that failed we went to the principal. It was at this point after we went to the principal that our daughter was removed as head captain. We then went to the Superintendent, and finally when that failed we went to the BoE. Our complaints and concerns went unanswered as we were told the matter was a “personnel” matter and therefore could not be discussed. The bullying got worse when we hired an attorney. Having legal representation only made the school become more agitated and annoyed with us.

    Only through Freedom of Information Act requests and obtaining correspondences, including emails of all school personnel involved did we discover the conspiracy and willful effort to deny our claims. A quote from one email written by the Superintendent to the Principal states, “If we continue to refute all allegations then we will shatter the accusations that come in from those parties who are trying to make things such a big deal. Hang in there…” When we attempted to speak before the Town Board of Education, we were denied to speak freely. A letter written to us by the Superintendent states, “If in the future if you plan to speak at another board meeting during public participation, please refrain from any accusations or allegations against personnel. It is against the board’s policy.” The efforts by the Town, the School and its employees involved to dismiss our claims were very strong and at times we felt powerless, but it only made us stronger in other ways.

    We presented our case to the State Board of Education Special Education Division over nine day’s of Hearings. The facts determined by the Hearing Officer was that there were “outrageous acts of bullying” by the coach and that the Board “failed to appropriately reprimand” the coach, “and in fact, the Board acquiesced in the bullying by demoting the Student and supporting the advisor’s outrageous behavior”. The State Board of Education Final Decision and Order can be read in its entirety at the state website located at: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Hearing_Decisions/2010/10_0490.pdf The school has sought to appeal this decision and we continue to await trial in Federal Court. The local News channel covered the story which can be seen on youtube.com at, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWvEWzzBETU

    During the period of time our daughters were being bullied and the school Board refused to listen, we filed a Request to Revoke Certification with the State Board of Education. The process took two years, but ultimately the state revoked the coach’s certificate and she was forced to be fired from her position as dance team coach. This individual remains unable to coach in either a private or public school setting within the state.

    As parents we need to stand up to bully coaches as they have a lasting affect on young athletes. Sports are supposed to build skill, confidence, and team spirit not be a source of anxiety, fear, and dread. For all those parents that might find it too difficult to fight city hall don’t give up, we haven’t.

  12. heartbroken son says:

    I live in a small district that consist of one high school and four elementary schools. My son, who is now in the 7th grade, loves to play basketball. He started in the 3rd grade. He was a quiet child and was often overlooked. During most practices, he and a few more children were released from practice early. He played basketball from 3rd- 6th grade, changing to a new coach in 5th grade. In four years he missed practice four times. I’ve taken him to practices and games sick, once I stopped and got him a antibiotic shot, because he didn’t want to miss. He was always afraid he would not get to play. He gave up two summers to play AAU basketball, and even had to attend required summer school classes. I have taken him to practice during school vacations and even snow days when school wasn’t in session. He has been very dedicated, and kept hoping that he would get his chance. In the summer of 2012, he was playing AAU summer ball, and was doing really well. The coach worked with him, and he was give substantial playing time. When school started back, the coach was still bragging, and said he expected him to start right where he left off. The problem was, there were five players who stayed back in the 6th grade. They were given the starting positions, and were also played up on the 7th grade team. I understood that my child was younger and smaller, and I expected them to take precedence over him. It became a problem when my child, and the other children who were suppose to be in the 6th grade, was having to sit during practice and games. They were not taught plays or drills. I’ve taken him to practice before where only a few players showed up for practice (not the star players). Instead of those players being worked with, he let them play horse, and did no coaching. Said it wasn’t worth his time to practice with only a few. I’ve driven over icy roads on school snow days for my child to get to run about 10 min at the beginning of practice, sit and watch 8-10 other boys practice, and then shoot a couple of free throws before being released from practice. The average practice lasted from 2 1/2 to 3 hours. He did get to participate in practices some, but not often. If the coach did put him in a game, he was a nervous wreck. He said he didn’t know the plays that well, and hadn’t gotten to practice them. The first time he messed up, or missed a shot, he was yelled at and pulled from the game. He wasn’t the only child that was treated this way. It was mostly the players who hadn’t stayed back in a grade. I walked into practice one day to witness one child being the only to be left out. He sat the entire time. When my son did get to practice, he though he’d done something really great to get to be included in practice. I don’t think this is right. Every child on the team should be included in practice time. Toward the end of last years basketball season, he started pressuring me to have my child repeat the 6th grade. My child is a straight A student, and very mature for his age. I was assured if the stayed back, he would have a starting position. I found out he had promised several other players the same thing if they repeated 6th grade. I told him I was leaving the decision up to my son, that I wasn’t forcing him to stay back. He recruited 2 players from another elementary school by promising them starting positions also. When the two transferred, my child was no longer told about practices or game. He was completely ignored. He was no longer included in practices at all. My child was benched or got little playing time even when they played younger teams. One team they played consisted of 4th and 5th grade students. His team consisted of 5 who were actually suppose to be in the 7th grade. My child was told he didn’t have to attend the game, because he probably wasn’t going to get to play. He and I both were told that the first half of the game would be played by the starters, while the second half would be played by 5th graders because the opposing team didn’t consist of any 6th grade players. I took him to the game anyway, and he did get some playing time. I tried to contact the coach to see what was going on. He wouldn’t return my calls. When I finally did reach him, I was told that he didn’t even know my son was considering staying back, and that he was in it to win. He was tired of being turned into the board, and that next year he was hand picking his team. He told me he wasn’t fooling with any kids he didn’t want to fool with. Needless to say, my child was not asked to be on the team. Through out the season I’d heard the coach talk about several of the players. He would talk about how he wasn’t wasting his time on them, how horrible they were, and so on. I found out that my child was one of those players that he didn’t want on his team. One year, money was raised to send the boys to a basketball camp. When we got at the camp to get the boys’ room assignments, two children were told they’d have to pay their own way in that there wasn’t enough money. Then the coach went back and bragged to several parents that he didn’t pay for them because they weren’t worth the money. This man is coaching the A and B teams for the school. He combines practice time, and only practices the players he wants. Out of 4 grades, you will have 8-10 kids getting to practice. Those are the kids who get to play. Many of them play on both teams. He is getting paid to coach two teams, when he is actually making them into one. Many of the players who don’t start never see playing time in a game, even if they are way ahead. When and if they do get in a game, the other players won’t pass them ball or even yell at them if they make mistakes. They are treated awful by the coach and most of the players who get to practice. Eventually they end up quitting. If you ask the coach about it, he just says they must have not wanted to play, or they wouldn’t have given up. My child and the children who don’t want to stay back shouldn’t be punished. If they get to practice 5 days a week, 3 hrs a day, and given double playing time, they would improve also. How doesn’t he know they will never make ball player or they aren’t worth his time if they aren’t given a chance? He has been allowed to make differences in these children. His star players do not have to follow his rules. They have been allowed to fight during games, use foul language, bully other players on their team and opposing teams, and they haven’t been required to keep up their grades. My child, and others, attend every practice, display good sportsmanship, keep the required grades, and never disrespect him. My question is, why do schools and athletic associations allow this to continue? Why are very few children given the opportunities while the others are treated like trash? As a parent, what can be done? I contacted the Athletic director in my district only to be told that the decision was left up to the principal. Are these coaches not held to any standards? Elementary sports should be about developing skills and teaching good sportsmanship. It shouldn’t be all about winning, forcing kids to repeat grades, punishing kids because they are in the correct grade, or denying kids practice time because a coach sees them as not worthy. I am a mother and a teacher. I could not imagine justifying making kids feel worthless. I could not imagine walking into a classroom and picking out a few students I thought was worth my time. I couldn’t imagine denying a child classroom instruction because the child was academically behind. Why are coaches allowed to do this?

  13. Richard Stone says:

    Over a six-month period of time during 2009-2010 our two daughters were bullied by their High School Dance Team coach. The worst of the bullying occurred after the Principal forwarded our emails of concern onto the coach. The coach retaliated against us by bullying our two daughters. Our oldest daughter, a senior at the time and a Special Needs student, was bullied the worst. We took our concerns to the Superintendent and even the School Board of Education, but we were not taken seriously. Our complaints and concerns went unanswered and when we looked for answers we were told the matter was a “personnel” matter and therefore could not be discussed. The bullying got worse when we hired an attorney. Having legal representation made the school become more agitated and annoyed with us. We attempted to speak before two district Board of Education meetings and each time we were denied to speak freely. The efforts by the Board of Education and its employees to dismiss our claims were very strong. It was only through Freedom of Information requests and obtaining correspondences, including emails of all Board of Education members, the Superintendent, the Principal and Athletic Manager did we discover the conspiracy and the willful and intentional efforts to target our complaints as frivolous and untrue. A quote from one email written by the Superintendent to the Principal states, “If we continue to refute all allegations then we will shatter the accusations that come in from those parties who are trying to make things such a big deal. Hang in there…”

    Oct-2010, we presented our case to the State Department Board Of Education and through nine days of Hearings the evidence and facts presented, found that there were “outrageous acts of bullying” by the coach and that the School Board “failed to appropriately reprimand” the coach, “and in fact, the Board acquiesced in the bullying… by supporting the advisor’s outrageous behavior”. The Hearing Officers decision can be read in its entirety at http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Hearing_Decisions/2010/10_0490.pdf
    The school sought to appeal this decision and as of this writing, the Board of Education has spent in excess of $200k appealing the Hearing Officers decision. The local News channel covered the story at the time the decision was made and can be seen on youtube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWvEWzzBETU

    May-2012, as a result of our efforts to having the coach’s coaching certificate revoked, the State Department of Education refused to renew the coach’s certificate. This coach has been, and continues to be prevented from coaching children in any public or private school funded with tax revenue and administered by a government or governmental agency.

    June-2013, a Federal Judge denied the Board of Education’s appeal and has allowed for us to move forward with five counts of counterclaims to the School Board:
    1) Reimbursement of Attorney fees
    2) Violating IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
    3) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
    4) Reckless and Willful Misconduct
    5) Violating the 1st Amendment (Free Speech)

    In addition to suing the Board of Education on these five counts, we were also granted authority by Federal court to sue each and every one of the individuals involved personally and with these same five counts. This was a huge success for us as the School Board claimed impunity based on sovereign immunity. The Federal Court Judge denied the School Boards impunity claims.

    Someone once asked me, “with the forces being many where do you find the motivation to continue?” My answer to them, “while the forces are many, my willingness to keep going is driven by my belief in what is just. The culture of impunity that exists in our public schools and local government must change. I feel this in my heart and in my soul and in the end, it is my hope that the results of our efforts will help prevent other children from being bullied by an adult overseer in a public school.”

    To everyone out there who thinks they need to give up because you can’t fight city hall and win. We did, and we won.

    To this day, my family and I still live in town and still have friends who support us while at the same time many more have ostracized us. I still attend the district’s Board of Education’s meetings and on occasion I continue to speak out whenever the opportunity arises.

  14. My daughter is on a rowing team where the coach is a bully. Parents withstand the climate, which is one of fear and intimidation, because we are afraid that our athletes will miss opportunities to row in college, earn scholarships, attend top colleges. The coach is very subtle about with the bullying, but routinely puts athletes down (and their parents) and the whole club caters to every whim of the coach.
    This is the only game in town, so there is now where else to go. The coach makes it clear that if crossed, will block any and all opportunities for our athletes–with colleges. It is no longer healthy for my child or family–to remain in this toxic environment. We feel powerless and angry and feel like we have no where to turn.

  15. Michael Greenhorn says:

    Everything said is all well and good. We have a college golfer who played her way to #1 on both her high school and junior college teams. We moved her to an NAIA college to get her to nursing school and the added advantage of a girls golf team. She had run into the coach from hell. She had to chase him for three months to get the ok you my join the team and a minimal scholarship to ho to school there. He played her once the second week of school. She tried too hard and finished 10 strikes behind the top four. He hasn’t given her a look since. She does everything to the max. Never misses practice, plays extra on her own since all practice consists of is pounding balls on the driving range. She listens attentively to his advice. The only time she missed a team meeting is when it’s called during her class time. I was called by my daughter last week and she let me know that she was pulled into the office during practice and told that she had a poor attitude and skills. The coach told her that she thought she was better than everyone else and then pretty much bullied for the remainder of her time in the office. All for asking when she was going to be able to compete for a starting slot on the team. What do you do eith an idiot like that? We’ve spent a ton of money on preparing her for this opportunity. She even competed on the boys team in high school by invitation. This young lady scored an honest 85 on the Torry Pines South course (the really hard one) the first time she ever saw it. Please advise. Do I step in on her behalf? Do I tell her to tough it out? Or should she start looking into transferring to another school? She has the skill and desire to compete. I don’t want her ruined by some local hic that doesn’t think much of people from another state.

  16. Transferring to another school is always an option when you have exhausted all your other options, such as talking to the AD. What does your daughter want to do?

  17. It’s great to see an article about coaches that bully kids. I was bullied by a racist teacher who only pretended to be a gymnastics coach when I was in high school. I was considered to be the best on the team because of my tumbling skills on both floor and beam. The school couldn’t afford a real gymnastics coach so the boy’s coach asked a notorious english teacher to step in (he probably had no idea that she was a racist bitch since it was her first year at the school but plenty of students knew it and complained about her).

    Even though I was the only one that often placed in the top 3 of the two events, this racist jack ass would often pull me off to the side and bitch at me about my performance. She had to be stupid to think her opinion mattered to me when the truth was, I only cared about the opinions of those who I had respect for. She never bitched at the other students. Only me. And when I refused to tolerate her bs, she kicked me off the team. My gymnastics instructor at the private gym I took lessons from and even the owner had asked why didn’t I attend the better high school that had an excellent team. So I did and it was much better in so many ways. I didn’t even care about not being the best at the new school because they had a real team and you could feel the team spirit.

    The racist jackass from my old school turned into a stalker. She was so worried that I’d compete for the other team and that I’d get a scholarship for college that she did everything she asked the coach of my new school all kinds of questions about me, formed a “friendship” with her, etc. Complaining to the school principal at my old school about her was pointless because when it comes to racism, those kind stick together.

  18. micheele says:

    I have a 13yo child whose confidence and ability has taken a big blow under his coach this season. The coach is giving him limited court time and has verbalized to me that this is a payback for a grievance he has with us. At the end of the game the coach goes around the other 7 players saying something positive about their game, and deliberately says nothing to mine. We have recently voiced our concerns in an adult manner to the committee and the coach, and now we are being treated like we are the bullies. How is this acceptable and how do coaches continue to get away with this? may child was selected tplay his sport at a higher level than local competition, so he does have some talent that if fostered could see him become a talented player (I am not saying superstar),
    but his confidence has taken such a blow that he is going backwards instead of forwards. we live in a small clicky country town which makes moving him very hard. Please help me be able to restore his self confidence. my heart is breaking seeming him so defeated after every practice and game.

    Thankyou

  19. discouraged says:

    Our sons were bullied by the coaches kids and another child of a leader. It was a unbelievable and horrible situation and when we tried to wisely highlight the bigger issue without naming names, and redirect the coaches and ultimately their kids’, we were lied about and forced off the team. The AD added insult to injury by believing lies, and refusing to hear our concerns. We were treated like criminals for protecting our children and for trying address the problem without directly calling out the coaches or their kids. It was a discouraging situation. The coaches allowed their children to bully, and did whatever they could to keep it from being exposed.

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