A recent survey of high school students across the U.S. found that 48% of respondents had been subjected to hazing–a form of bullying in which kids are humiliated or required to take part in dangerous activities. Much of this hazing happens in sports, the study found.
Young athletes are bullied by adults as well as peers. Youth coaches often yell at, tease, humiliate and intimidate kids.
Bullying is a sure-fire way to hurt young athletes’ confidence and enjoyment of sports. In fact, many kids who are bullied drop out.
Parents have told us they don’t know what to do to help their kids deal with bullies–or how to prevent them from quitting when they’re targets.
Paul Coughlin, a sports dad and coach, says his son quit playing soccer because two of the kids on the team picked on his son repeatedly. “They made fun of his hair and what he was wearing,” he says.
In this case, the bullies were physically advanced, and used that power to put other kids down, he says. “It was awful for us as parents. We felt powerless,” says Coughlin, now an anti-bullying advocate.
Not only are the less physically advanced athletes targets of bullies. So are gifted athletes. Bullies try to hurt gifted athletes because they’re jealous.
Kirsten, a sports mom, says a group of jealous boys tried to beat up her son. They also stole his belongings, damaged his belongings, and described sexual acts to him.
Kids, parents and coaches should not tolerate bullies. But dealing with them is tricky. That’s because kids are afraid and embarrassed to talk about being bullied.
What’s more, bullies are crafty and it’s hard to catch them. And schools, sports teams and other organizations often turn a blind eye to bullies.
Here at the Ultimate Sports Parent, we’re developing a series of resources to show parents and coaches how to help kids stay mentally tough in the face of bullies.
We’re also working on resources specifically for young athletes, aimed at helping them stay mentally tough in the likely event that they’ll deal with this challenge at some point in sports.
We’ll reveal more details of our new program later, but our aim is to provide practical, proven sports psychology tips for helping kids stay confident, focused and on track when bullies target them.
Right now, we need your help!
Do you have any stories to share with us about bullying? You might discuss the following:
- Have your kids or any of their friends ever been the target of bullies—peers or coaches–in sports?
- How did this treatment affect the young athletes? How did it influence their confidence or focus?
- How did you as parents and your kids’ coaches deal with this?
- Were your efforts successful in putting an end to the bullying?
We’d appreciate it if you post your comments on our blog below.
Thanks for your input. Stay tuned for more bullying resources very soon.
Patrick Cohn, Ph.D. and Lisa Cohn
P.S. One last question: Do you suspect or worry your young athlete may be bullied in sports, but feel he or she is too embarrassed to tell you? Please post your comments below!