July 24, 2014

Help us Fight Bullying in Sports

Bullying is an epidemic in our society today. It’s especially rampant in sports.

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.

Sincerely,

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!

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Comments

  1. The worst bullying is when the top players on a team form a clique and treat the subs or less talented players poorly. The coaches often encourage this through the way they treat and play the players. If a coach treats a player as a liability then the kids pick up on that and do their best to discourage the player.

  2. Thanks for your email. My son has been bullied in his swim club. I agree the clique is the power of the group. If your child is not in the clique it is difficult. The clique would isloate my son and because he is developmental a smaller kid the bigger kids push there weight around. Kids would not let him pass them even if we was faster in a certain distance.

    We did address this situation with the club, but since my son does other sports were he has an awesome support group we reduced the interaction time with his swim club. For example he does not do dryland training with his group, to be honest the dryland training with this club is a joke and is more a social time. He will not travel with the team and will stay with us. Since he also cycles and runs the has excellent peers in that group we have no problem with him staying and traveling with this group. He also attends sports camps and has a great time. We tell him not everything in life is perfect and currently this specific group at this time is not far from perfect! So we create and eviornment were he does have great peer interactions and reduce the time were the clique may have the time to do their thing!

    I am looking forward to reading your suggestions. My suggestion is to get involved in as many sports as possible and teach your child that they have the power to choose and they don’t to hang out with a bunch of jerks!

  3. My son was berrated by his baseball coach for making a mental error at the plate, by swinging at an 3-0 count, and popped up. Most likely the coach was more embarrassed at the score which found the team getting beat handily. When your called out of the dugout and told your stupid, you are most likely going to react poorly. My son said nothing and was smart enough to internalize that he would no longer play for this coach in the future. My son’s love for the game was slowly drained away. Grade school athletics have lost their main purpose, which is to instill a love for the game.

  4. Thank for your email regarding bullying in sports. My college bound athlete has gone through bullying many times in her athletic career. We did our best to use them as life lessons along the way. It would have been helpful to have had a guide for my athlete to have and assist her. Sometimes a written guide can help back up the parents so they see it coming from a “professional source” and not just mom and dad.
    I coach a national level volleyball team at the developmental ages (11-14). Having seen my daughter go through it, I do my best to control bullying – even to the extent of sitting a great player on the bench to prove my point. It is true that they are very crafty at consealing it. It is beneficial for me to be involved with my parents, talking to them often to make sure there aren’t any issues that I need to be aware of. I pay close attention to my players to see and find out why they have a change of mood or have become withdrawn. It is my experience that bullying can be the cause about half the time.

    Parents need to feel they can discuss bullying issues with their coach without anyone finding out, especially the kids on the team. We talk about it very openly in team meetings. We talk about how it makes us feel and the reasons why someone would do it. We talk about how to handle the situation if we witness it. I flat out tell my kids it is not going to happen on our team. Volleyball is the ultimate team sport and bullying is very devastating to our team’s perfromance. I let them know from the start that cliques will not be allowed or tolerated. I make sure we switch warm up partners often as well to prevent cliques from forming. I constantly watch, especially early on to make sure that cliques do not form.

    Having said, that it is hard to catch it all. They are very crafty and it takes the kids helping each other as well as the parents and coaches to stay involved and aware. Everyone needs to be aware and just not tolerate it.

  5. Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories and comments about bullying. This will help us help parents and coaches better. Keep your stories coming please. If we share your comments, we will not use your name!

    Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn

  6. Last year our 9 year son was playing Select Baseball… which we were paying for coaches and training. The head coach consistently berated my son. At one point he actually told another coach that “xxx can’t catch” where my son could hear him. Now my son was not the best but certainly not the worst catcher. Regardless the man should not say anything negative.
    Needless to say we quit and after a year of play Fall and now Spring ball, his confidence is back.
    Lesson learned, if you are going to pay good money for training, check out the coaches ahead of time… this was not the first for this guy.

  7. Thank You for your concern on this subject. I have struggled with this topic quite often lately. Both my husband and I were succesful college athletes and we are blessed with two very talented smart boys. The sad thing is this year our younger son has not lived up to his older brothers abilities and my younger sons coaches are attacking him. This only goes on when my husband is traveling.

    The first team is a rec “fun team” but these dad’s are playing for bragging rights in our town. My son does not make many games because he plays on a select team as well. This makes the rec coach mad , even though he was explained the situation ahead of time. We are new to the town and not involved in all the cliques these parents have created.they asked my son to play thinking he would be the “ringer” . The coaches expectation of my son are unrealistic and when he does not perform to that standard, he his sat on the bench and yelled at. he is 8. the problem with never playing for this coach again is the social aspect , these are all boys my son goes to school with.
    not sure how to handle it?

  8. My son faced being bullied as a child and teen athlete. Living a small rural area, there was no place to run away from the bullies as you go to school, church, and other social functions with the same group of people. He played several sports during high school. He was physically immature compared to his peers but no less talented than them. The bullying was concealed quite well because the boys doing the bullying were well-liked by nonathletic students, friends and coaches; were well-behaved in a public setting and some were extremely bright (two class valedictorians). They didn’t like the threat my son posed to them, I supposed. Despite the bullying, my son never wanted to quit playing sports. He was willing to be unpopular but would never quit. It is his passion to become a coach some day. He persevered and has now, at 6 feet 9 inches, outgrown his peers physically, emotionally and athletically. Although he won the battle with the bullies, it was a tough go for many years and it left permanent scars.

  9. After reading about bullying in sports, it brought to my attention that not only players bully each other, but that coaches are guilty of bullying also. I have two sons that played high school baseball (the 16 y/o still does) under this coach the past 5 years. Coach is a hard core, old school disciplinarian/dictator, “my way or the highway”, and swears his style is the only way to reach the kids now days. It’s almost like a Marine Corps boot camp, only worse. He has players do everything for him from carrying his brief case and ball bucket to having the captains dish out the punishment for having the wrong color belt at practice to nagging the players when they make errors during the game. His style makes the players play looking over their shoulder or like they’re walking on eggshells, which makes not only a miserable record, but miserable players.
    Coach has physical limitations (at least 450 lbs) so he cannot teach the players the proper fundamentals, like for example, fielding ground balls or base running. When players see that the coach cannot perform what he is trying to teach, it lowers their trust and respect for him. His coaching staff has met with him to discuss his style of coaching and it’s affect on the players, but he always returns to what he knows best, the authoritarian style. At one of the players’ meetings, I had the players (yes, I’m one of the assitant coaches) anonymously answer the question “What kills your motivation to play baseball?” After compiling the answers, the most common answer was the way they were being treated or bullied. They felt like slaves/servants instead of baseball players. When I presented the results to him, he acknowledged that he was guilty of the majority, if not all, of the statements, BUT! Also said that just because the statements were true it, doesn’t mean he can change overnight. And that his style is so ingrained in him, it will take a long time to make any changes. Meanwhile, while changes are slow, the players are still suffering.
    As a parent/coach, any advice would help me help him stop the bullying.

  10. MY DAUGHTER COMPETES IN BMX RACING, WHICH IS BICYCLE MOTOCROSS. SHE HAS EXPERIENCED ANOTHER GIRL BULLYING WHEN MY DAUGHTER, AFTER A YEAR OF RACING, BEAT THIS OTHER GIRL. BEFORE MY DAUGHTER BEAT HER, THEY WERE FRINEDS. THE MINUTE THIS GIRL AND HER PARENTS SAW THE WRITING ON THE WALL THEY (THE PARENTS AND THE CHILD) SPREAD RUMORS ABOUT MY DAUGHTER CALLING HER A DIRTY RIDER AND BULLY. THIS GIRL WOULD LEAVE NASTY, TAUNTING MESSAGES ON MY DAUGHTERS VOICEMAIL, AND FINALLY ENDED UP LEAVING A SEXUALLY HARRASSING MESSAGE. THIS WAS AN 11 YEAR OLD GIRL!!!! HER PARENTS CONSIDER THEMSELVES AND THIER FAMILY TO BE BMX ROYALTY AND WOULD NOT DISCUSS THE PROBLEM WITH THE GIRLS COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER AND THE ISSUES THAT AROSE. THE MOTHER’S RESPONSE WAS “I’M STAYING OUT OF IT”…. SO… WHEN THE SEXUALLY HARRASSING MESSAGE WAS LEFT I CALLED THE POLICE AND THEY IN TURN CALLED THE GIRL AND HER MOM AND HAD A CONVERSATION REGARDING CONSEQUENCES FOR HER ACTIONS. WE WERE ENCOURAGED TO CHANGE MY DAUGHTER’S PHONE NUMBER, BUT I FELT IT WAS THE OTHER GIRL’S RESPONSIBILITY TO NOT CALL AGAIN, NOT MY DAUGHTER’S RESPONSIBLILTY TO AVOID HER BY CHANGING A PHONE NUMBER. THANKFULLY, THE CALLS HAVE STOPPED. MY BELIEF IS THAT THIS GIRL WILL THINK TWICE BEFORE DOING THIS TO SOMEONE ELSE AS SHE IS AWARE OF THE CONSEQUENCES NOW. HER BROTHER HAS LAUGHED AT MY DAUGHTER WHEN SHE CRASHED ON THE TRACK WHILE RACING. MY POINT IS THE PARENTS ARE TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CHILDREN’S ATTITUDES ON BULLYING AND SPORTSMANSHIP. SO THE ANSWER LIES IN THE PARENTS!!!! MY DAUGHTER RACES OTHER GIRLS ALL THE TIME AND THEY ARE GOOD SPORTS. THEY ARE DISAPPOINTED WHEN THEY DON’T WIN… BUT THEY HAVE LEARNED TO MOVE ON AND TRY HARDER NEXT TIME AND IT ALL WORKS FOR THEM PUSHING EACH OTHER TO BE FASTER AND BETTER RIDERS. PARENTS MUST NOT ALLOW THE BULLYING TO CONTINUE… STAND UP FOR YOUR CHILDREN… IT WILL WORK OUT IN THE LONG RUN!!!!

  11. Although the victims of bullying are many and are definitely in need of help; however I think the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” would be more efficient and effective in addressing the bullying problem. There are far fewer bullies than there are victims and they are easier to find than the victims so I’m suggesting our limited resources to address the problem would be better utilized if they were focused on helping the bullies eliminate the reasons that are making them bullies.

  12. My story is similar to Tina’s. My athlete has been craftely bullyed this year by a few players on her HS team. She is a gifted athlete who posed a threat to one of the girls who plays the same position. They rallied others on the team to dislike her and undermined her self-esteem causing her to under-perform when final decisions were being made. Needless to say, the other girl got the spot and my athlete got the bench. I told the coach about the bullying before the season began, but did not tell her who was doing the bullying). She said she had an idea and that the situation would be addressed. Problem is that these girls are well-liked by the coach and nothing was done. My athlete has had a miserable time (after a stellar year the previous season) and wants to quit. I am trying to use this experience as a life lesson, but it is a hard sell. She is a gentle soul who will not speak ill of anyone–even the girls who have hurt her this season. How do you get your athlete to stand up for themselves?

  13. Bullying is everywhere. In grade school we experienced it at our nice catholic school. This eventually led me to coach in attempt to control it but then the parents bully me. whatever. this year the cliche kids are going to leave our school sports if we dont make A and B teams. Good bye is all I want to say. Then there is the highschool parents bullying there very own team members from the bench infront of the parents whose kid it is. the apple doesnt fall from the tree. there is no stopping it. it is what it is

  14. I appreciate Patrick Cohn’s post concerning bullying in sports. But I have noticed a glaring omission. Mention has been made about school athletes bullying other school athletes. This is a problem that should be addressed, but what about school athletes who bully nonathletic students at their schools? Shouldn’t this kind of bullying be addressed as well, or is it impolite to say that it happens? Who sticks up for the nonathletic students?

  15. Bill:

    I think the point is that bullying is happening everywhere you find kids this age — in school and sports and social settings.

    Patrick Cohn

  16. The bullying of nonathletic boys by some of their athletic peers has been institutionalized for generations. Masculinity is now falsely defined in terms of athletic prowess. Nonathletic boys are stigmatized simply for not having an interest in sports, often before they reach their teens. Boys who have no interest in sports are automatically suspected of having homosexual tendencies, despite overwhelming evidence that there is absolutely no correlation between homosexuality and participating or not participating in sports. The fact that there have been men of great courage who never had an interest in sports is completely ignored. Nonathletic boys are physically bullied in mandatory sports-centered P.E. classes that provide no physical fitness programs for them. I speak from the standpoint of personal experience.

  17. Hi, This weekend was attending my daughters soccer game. I had left the field momentarilly when arriving back was told that one of the girls had told another girl she was going to f&%^& kill her after she was penalized. I approached the referee’s at half time to bring this to his attention. His responce was that he had everything under control, my responce was that if he did not handle this I would have no choice but to call the police.. he then told me it was in my best interest to go back to the side lines as one of the other referee’s snickered as I was leaving. I called the police. They seemed it was more more searious than the referee. My question is was I over reacting. I believe I did the right thing. Now I’m in the middle of A leage hearing.

  18. Mike, not if you think your kid is in danger and nothing is being done about it by the officials.

  19. My daughter plays on a U12 girls hockey team. This year and last year, there has been a bully and her sidekick in the locker room. In both cases, the “bully” often blames other kids for losing the game, says intimidating things, and picks on those who may not be as athletically talented or socially outgoing or confident. Usually, my daughter is not the target, but just having to witness it has negative effects on her and the other girls on the team. Just this past weekend at an out of town tournament, my daughter finally heard enough and stood up to the bully. My daughter was a bystander, not the target. I KNOW many of the other girls on the team wanted to stand up with her, but were afraid to do so. I know this because those girls talked to their parents about what happened. It is through those parents that I even found out about it because my daughter did not tell me. I was proud of my daughter and told her she did the right thing and that she needs to continue to stand up like that when someone is bullying in the locker room. I also told her that many of the other girls wanted to stand up with her, but are just too afraid. I am hoping that if she needs to stand up to the bully again, some of the other girls might stand up with her. It needs to stop – and the sad thing is that I know my daughter’s team is not the only one. We need to give our kids tools and skills to use to stop bullying right away.

    Another important tidbit is that my husband is the coach and that is part of the reason my daughter doesn’t tell. She doesn’t want to be known as a snitch. I did talk to my husband about what I found out and we are trying to figure out the best way to handle this issue. This girl who is bully also happens to be one of the team captains. My thought is to pull her aside privately and let her know that he is aware of the interactions going on in the locker room. He should tell her that as a captain, she needs to be a leader on the team and that using intimidation and put downs is not the way to be an effective leader. I think he should let her know that if the behavior doesn’t stop, she will lose her team captain title and he will choose a different player to fill that role. That saying, “there is no I in TEAM” comes to mind, but I would also add that there also is “no U in team” – meaning that saying to another player “you lost the game for us” is not okay.

    Any thought on how to empower the kids? And the best steps to take as a coach?

  20. I think you are right. The team coach has to put an end to it even if it’s a start player or captain. The coach should meet with this players individually and with her parents. The player may not know she is doing it and will respect the coach.

    Patrick Cohn

  21. Bullying.. My son loves the sport that he is in. I used to drop him off then pick him up at the end of practice.
    Because of the bullying I now sit and watch all practices. I am not very far from his coach and my son during practice.

    This is the only way to handle.things. A bully is always a bully. The coach would like to throw these kids off the team
    but they are afraid of lawsuits.

    I would suggest if you have a child that loves his/her sport that you do not leave practice. So far this has worked
    for us. Do not be weak be strong. If something else does happen to my son I will go directly to the parents and make
    sure they know that they will have me to deal with in the future if the behavior does not stop.
    Do not give in and allow mean adults and children take something away from your child. Good Luck.

  22. I have a very gifted athlete that started her sport at age 9. Her coaches are amazing and she progressed to the National level quite quickly. There were a couple of girls on the team that were jealous of my daughter, they would belittle her, make rude comments, leave her out of events, and just ignore her. What’s worse, is that the parents of these girls knew it was going on and did nothing. It it a sad day and age when the parents know yet and do nothing about it. The worst part was that my daughter was on the team first, these other girls came on the team, formed a clique with other team members and they now exclude my daughter as well. One team member secretly texts my daughter so his mom doesn’t know, (she is friends with the other parents of the girls). Thankfully the team has grown and there are other kids that are very nice to my daughter so it is better for her. I just can’t get over how adults can overlook and partake in that kind of behavior. My daughter isn’t sure she wants to continue, she has been injured for the last few months, and honestly I don’t blame her. I don’t want her to quit because she can really do a lot with it, but I completely understand why she doesn’t want to be around such awful people..

  23. My story is about my 8 year old son who just yesterday was kicked off of his baseball team. His coach is his bully and is one of the worst human beings I have ever encountered in my lifetime. Many of the other parents do not like this mans coaching tactic but all of us feared to say anything due to we felt if we did it would be worse for our children. My instinct when winter practices started was that I didnt like this man, but everyone said oh thats just him…well as the season has progressed I have become increasingly upset with this mans behavior towards all of the boys not just my own child. He screams at them, not yells, screams and intimidates and humiliates all of them while they are on the field and hitting. My son has never played so poorly in his life and he has been on a ball field since he was 3. I he always made my children fininsh what they started so we have just been sticking it out and using this as a life lesson. In a recent game my son fielded a ball in the outfield and due to his coach screaming at him to throw it home he got confused and held the ball too long in the outfield, after which he was screamed at for 2 mins by his coach who is 6 foot 5 and easily 400 lbs. My son not want to cry looked down at the ground during this tyraid and when he did so this man screamed even louder at my child by name can u hear me…hey can you hear me? Trust me everyone could hear him and that was the last straw for me I was done. So after he humiliated my son in front of everyone I yelled to my son and told him it was fine and just do what he has always known to do get the ball back to the pitcher quick…not a big deal buddy I tell him. After we get home that night I could tell that he wasnt ok so I sat down and asked him what was wrong and he began to cry. I asked him if this was about his baseballl game and coach and he said yes that his coach made him feel like he was a big nothing, a zero. So as I cried with my little boy because I felt guilty for ever putting this man in his life I promised him I would never make him play for this man again.He replied with good cuz I dont want to play ever if he is my coach. Earlier that day I had also made a post on facebook about how I felt that to be a leader and mentor you must first respect them and treat them as such and if you can not do so please dont put yourself in a positon where I child believes he must do so…the coach isnt even my friend on fb so I thought nothing about this post at all but you all know how small communities are…so the coach took this as me bashing him publicly on facebook and decided all of the sudden that my child was not cut out or ready for this level of play and was being kicked off the team for this and my fb bashing. All this man has done is hurt an 8 year boy loves the game of baseball more than anything and just wanted to play he almost destroyed his love for the sport and it is unforgiveable on any level,and for this he should be ashamed of himself.

  24. Coach “bullies” should NOT be tolerated. Parents are responsible for (and usually pay for) Boys and Girls club sports. They can band together to keep Coach bullies out of team sports where they damage children everywhere. This is also true of high school sports. No intimidation, belittling or bullying should be allowed. The guidelines should become policy, with little, if any, room for interpretation.If some parents agree with intimidation tactics in sports, then professional counselors should be brought in to mediate. Bullying often seems to be the national youth “pat time” with dire consequences. Why it’s tolerated is beyond comprhenison.

  25. My son is not a very good athlete and doesn’t like the fierce competition of team sports. That being said, I was excited when he said he would try basketball camp this summer. The first couple of days weren’t too bad, but then on Wed., some of the boys from his school & grade started to pick on him for being a poor player. He admitted that he has only played 2 years, and they said it didn’t matter, he still “sucked”. A couple of boys who are real friends still smiled and encouraged him, but the rest made sure he wasn’t in their group and made sly remarks under their breaths. He did go back today, and I spoke to the head coach. I’m hoping he takes care of it subtly. He seemed genuinely upset that the bullying was going on. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when I pick my son up things are better and that I did not mess things up by speaking privately with the coach. I always worry about doing that because some adults aren’t good about not letting know who is who. I just want him to have fun and not be turned off from recreational team sports.

  26. Meralee says:

    I’ve seen about every side of bullying in youth sports. I was bullied by teammates in 8th grade basketball and a coach in 11 year old softball. I witnessed coaches abusing both referees and players when I was a referee. I’ve seen players on teams I coached bullying teammates.

    The hardest hitting was seeing a former player of mine posting online plans to organize many students to all wearing a shirt that would bully one of my then current players. I took screen shots of the plans and forwarded the information to the players’ school anonymously and they put a stop to it.

    I’ve since instigated a new set of rules and the most important one is
    #1- respect EVERYONE (teammates, SELF, opponents, officials, ands everyone else.

    It seems tip have worked well so far.

  27. Before a recent Saturday morning baseball game one of my parent told me of another parent who constantly bad-mouths our 11-to-12 year old boys from the bleachers. He’s not loud enough that the boys can hear him but he’s also not smart enough to keep from being overheard by each boy’s parent. Given this information (and a considerable amount of other “back-story”) I decided to confront “Mr. T” at the end of the game. I called him over to me out of earshot of others. I told him quietly and calmly that several parents had reported to me about his mean comments during games and that those who talked to me were no longer willing to sit anywhere near him. I told him in no uncertain terms that this would not continue and asked him if I had made myself clear. I was not unkind, but I did not mince words either.

    It seemed to me at this point that any decent human being would say “I’m so sorry that I’ve behaved so badly; it won’t happen again.” Instead, Mr. T dropped his chin to his chest and broke into a creepy grin, the intent of which was unmistakable; ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!’

    Mr. T then began a tirade that confirmed everything that our parents had been saying. He told me what a bad job I was doing as a coach and asked if I had taught any of our players anything. He mocked our record and accused me of turning his son into an ineffective hitter/player. I replied to him, still reasonably calmly, that his son had been hitting very effectively under my direction until such time that he (Mr. T) began aggressively coaching his at-bats from outside the field and undermining my efforts to coach.

    At this point, Mr. Trookman began mocking my son. He asked (sarcastically) if I taught him those “great plays” he made during the game? Two weeks prior my son was hit by a pitch on the tip of his thumb, jamming it. His thumb had been red, swollen and painful ever since and he was not able to bend it. I only asked my son to play because we were short players and didn’t want to forfeit. I talked to all the players and told them my son could not grasp a ball and that it was my instruction that he field the ball into his glove and then flip it with his gloved hand to first base (or wherever). This is what he tried to do, bravely but not quite cleanly, from the second base position and from the short-outfield position. These were the “great plays” that Mr. T mocked!

    I do admit to a personal failing on my part in that I didn’t choose my words very carefully after that. I responded to his mean abusiveness by inviting his “fat a**” onto the field to see what he could do with a baseball even with two good thumbs. I walked away and Mr. T continued to yell abuses at me . . . and yes, I stupidly returned insults. At one later point I even referred to him as an “a**hole.”

    On Sunday I got a call from the baseball league director. He informed me that he was removing me as the coach of my son’s team. Apparently, this league has no rules regarding loud abusive parents, but have no tolerance for the “a-word.”

    I’m not the least bit proud that I let this guy drag me into the gutter with him; that is what coward-bullies like this do. I have no patience in my life anymore for bullies of this or any kind. It’s been too much a part of my life and I don’t want any child under my charge, especially my son, to be bullied or bad-mouthed. I seem to be more and more able to recognize these kinds of people very quickly (due to experience) and I felt at the time like I was just calling a jerk a jerk! I obviously need to find a better way to deal with these people; one that exposes them for what they are without damaging my own reputation in the process.

  28. Michelle Benham says:

    As a devastated Mum of a 13 year old boy who is victim to team bullying, I find it great that we can share our story, and although Im on the other side of the world (in Australia) I feel the issue is wide spread all over the world and worth commenting.

    My son joined a new U 14′s team at one of our local soccer clubs this year.
    He had not played league soccer for two years due to a broken arm but had played school soccer in the meantime. His skills had suffered and his confidence was a little shot from it all but he was keen to get back into the soccer world and committed to the Team!

    Throughout the season my son has sat on the sidelines watching 60 minutes of the game and playing about 10 minutes. He starts off every game and barely gets a run. Instead, the “best players” are playing full games to get a game win.

    My son has watched as boys who dont even turn up for training or come prepared with thier club kit play a full game even though they havent followed club/team rules. He goes to training, goes prepared and still misses out.

    I didnt pay several hundred dollars a season to stand on the side lines and watch my son all sad and deflated on the sidelines.

    He is “dissed” by his team players for not being a very good player and the coach singles him out in front of the team to highlight his lack of skills.

    There was an incident last week where the boys all teased him at training because he isnt confident at heading the ball and his fomr isnt perfect. He was almost in tears and now doesnt want to return to play the rest of the season out. i dont blame him.

    I have spoke tot he team manager and team coach, i then made a complaint to the club and have recently put my concerns in writing. Still, NOTHING is being done.

    Soccer at this level is not all about winning, it is about building team spirit and player confidence. It is about teaching them new skills and developing those skills. It is about allowing the less competent players equal opportunity so they can build on their skills and be a part of the team.

    This hasnt happened and now my son is more deflated and down about soccer than I have ever seen him. This sadens me as he has loved it since he started in Under8′s.

    I cant force him to go to the several remaining games of the season but do I allow him to give up and let them win?? Its a trickyone. I certainly dont want his self esteem damaged any further.

    Concerned MUM xx

  29. I am thrilled to find a blog about this as I am eager to find ways to make this a more bearable and easy to deal with subject amongst children, coaches and parents. I have a 14 year old daughter who has been bullied for 2 years in basketball and I have done my best to help her as a parent learn how to use this as a life lesson. I think in the long run she has and will learn from it but the sadness is this experience has greatly diminished how she feels about playing this sport if this girl is going to still be on this team and the adults surrounding are not going to help her take a stand. I also have coaching experience and coached her team up until the last 2 years. I also coach volleyball on a regular basis. Team cohesion, bonding, character and coachability are things I take great pride in attempting to instill in these young athletes and I have had many parents comment on how well myself and my co-coach do with volleyball and they wish that the same things would carry over to basketball. I have tried to instill in my daughter that since the coaches are not taking care of the problem as I have reported it several times and many of the instances are happening in public display on the court with blatent disrespect for players and coaches that sometimes things in life don’t go the way we wish but we have to find a positive lesson in it somewhere. I have since had a wonderful talk with the mother of this child who is a single mother struggling to make it and is welcome to all of the help or suggestions I can give however the sad part is, unless they as a family can find a way to instill a change it isn’t going to carry over to their day to day lives no matter what my suggestions. I work at a school and have witnessed this on several different levels so with all of these experiences it has led me to research and investigate this as a learning tool and to hopefully pass on to others. I will be very interested in what your research turns up. I have recently had disccussion with our HS principal and a friend of mine (my daughters coach) who in exact words have said that I can only control my child and that we need to teach the kids to ignore behavior like this and go on and that it does not constitue bullying? The constant taunting, backstabbing, spreading rumors, making fun of appearance, size, ability or weight, persuading friends to exclude someone, saying rude things on purpose followed by “just kidding” as if to make it better. The thought that we need to teach them to ignore it is appauling to me and makes my stomach turn as I don’t coach this way on my own teams. I believe in character building, integrity, honesty and most importantly coachability. With team cohesion, discipline and fundamentals I can make a decent team out of about anything! But most importantly make a difference. I feel like this should be a grass roots movement and it needs to start at the administrative level and be a requirement for the coaches that we hire in schools to teach it as well as demand it. Too many of the people I am coming acrossed are just in it to do it and hope they get a good team. If not then they got a little extra cash out of it at the end.

  30. KP,
    Thanks for writing in. I agree with you. We have to fight this at the grassroots level. That’s what we’re trying to do here, and stories If you haven’t checked out the bullying section of Kids’ Sports Psychology, here’s the link:
    http://www.kidssportspsychology.com/public/department101.cfm
    Also, we do have some positive stories about how people managed to stop bullying. Here’s one:
    http://www.youthsportspsychology.com/youth_sports_psychology_blog/?p=1505&cpage=1#comment-3467

    Thanks and stay in touch!

    Lisa

  31. Tracey Daniel says:

    My daughter has become the latest victim of being bullied by her coach….we need help….is this a legal matter..after addressing the club owner, can we file suit against this coach

  32. Hi Tracey,
    Sorry to hear about this. We can’t give you legal advice, but we do suggest you try every other avenue first…going to the club owner, talking to the coach. Here are two stories about how parents successfully dealt with bully coaches:
    http://www.youthsportspsychology.com/youth_sports_psychology_blog/?p=1598
    and
    http://www.youthsportspsychology.com/youth_sports_psychology_blog/?p=1505&cpage=1#comment-3467

    We’ll also check with our bullying expert, Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., and see what he suggests.

    Lisa

  33. The story KP has told is almost the exact same thing we have dealt with with my 14 year old who plays club and high school volleyball. I also have coached kids sports, have a degree in health and phyical education and an appreciation of the mental side of sports. I am disappointed over and over by the dog eat dog mentality at the higher levels. I have a kid who is coachable, a hard worker, and has great character, and is very self motivated. She has always been considered a leader and has been appreciated by most coaches. We have had a very tough year with a coach who was a bully, manipulator, and poor role model. My daughter made a very brave decision to switch schools with the hopes of better opportunites academically and in sports. The coach was let go after many accusations and in this case our principal stood up for what was right. Now we are in club. I have seen so many issues with the coaches and parents. We have a coach who is talking to parents about the other kids faults on our team. I feel like a few of these parents are putting so much pressure on the coaches to win, the coaches aren’t able to follow their initial plan. I don’t understand how yelling at girls, pitting them against eachother, blaming individuals for the teams failures, and playing favorites is beneficial to anyone. I am so tired of the win at all cost attitude. It does damage. These parents who are willing to sell their kids out to the highest bidder and allow adults to treat their kids worse than they ever would, make me sad. Many of these kids are spoiled brats who have been taught that they are the center of the universe. I think these parents are sometime using the coaches as “parents” thinking the discipline might come through these teams. I have taught my kids to stand up for what is right, work hard and be a model for others to learn from, be coachable, responsible, lead not follow. People do not have the right to bully you….you choose to be a victim. I am sure I have been labeled as the problem parent, but I really feel that the attitudes of these coaches in sports is so “old school”. I really believe you can coach kids in a positive manner and get a very positive outcome. My philosophy is…if you put the work in, believe in yourself, and work as a team the rest will come. It all starts from within. Kids who are good examples make those around them work to be better. Kids who often have “natural ability” never learn to work hard. Physical characteristics such has height and athleticism don’t always lead to successful athletes. I’ll take the coachable, hard working, smart kid with character any day. If I hear… that’s just the way it is and it only gets worse or just don’t have your kid play, one more time, I am going to scream. Kids deserve to be in safe, healthy, positive environments with fair and supportive coaches. Tough is ok as long as there is good stuff to go along with it. These sports end for most…I think we need to be concerned about what type of adults we are spitting out after their careers in sports are over. Good luck to everyone out there who is standing up for the kids. Believe me, they need you.

  34. This happened to me i was hazed bullied beat up got hung up by my arms from the hoop and you know what the coachs did. NOTHING! they let me hung there until one of the 8th grade players came by and helped me get down from there. he was the only one who was nice to me there. I was pushed almost to quitting but i just couldn’t because i have this drive and fire inside me to practice no matter what. I don’t have much natural ability and i’ve had to work since i was 8 to get better. (i’m in 7th grade now) I have a problem with Perfectionism and get angry and down on myself when i miss or screw up. I got so down that i cried and forced to sit as a reserve for the rest of the season and i’m probably not gonna make the team next year if i try so i’ll probably just give up on sports altogether. Sorry i just needed to get that off my chest

  35. Travis,
    Thanks for writing us and telling us about your experience. We hope you don’t give up sports altogether. You might talk to your parents about getting some of our programs. If you become a member of Kids’ Sports Psychology, you’ll have access to both our bullying and perfectionism programs.

  36. Lisa Jackson says:

    My daughter was forced to quit a sport that she so deeply loves (competitive cheer) because her coach felt that she was being too dramatic when having an asthma attack. He felt that her running outside to use her inhaler (only when her team was released for break) was to disruptive to the team. He said that they would keep her inhalers close to the floor and “if she is having a breathing issue it will be addressed calmly at that time”, that comment was made even AFTER he received a letter from her pulmonologist stating that she is to be able to use her inhaler when she feels she needs it!!! Even adults that are having their throat close up are not calm at that time. I decided that it was not in her best interest to stay there and so we quit. Unfortunatly there were still three more comps left. This was not an easy decision on our part. The bullying started when they found out she quit. The owner/coach called all the teams together and ridiculed and mocked her. As he was ‘imitating’ her he is screaming like a lunatic saying “This is not an asthma attack, this is a drama attack!! I KNOW an asthma attack!!” He went on to further state that “we should bash her on Facebook.” I was sent the video/audio of this entire “fit” he threw (and will be willing to share if anyone is interested). He, and other gym ‘employees’ go on Facebook later that evening and call her a ‘wimp’, and a ‘quitter’. One lady (and employee at that) said “you don’t have to sugar coat things with my daughters because they have a vagina”! My daughter was respected by both her teammates and parents alike until she was so viscously attacked by ADULTS representing the gym. The USASF has been contacted about this, and resulting issues, but has so far failed to take action. Child Protective Services has also been informed and we are still waiting for that to be investigated. I do not understand why at times like these (where bullying is getting out of hand) the people that have the power to stop this won’t do anything. I have documentation to back up everything I am saying! Another girl was asked to leave when her parents stated on fb that they did not approve of what happened that night. The gym and some parents/employees went so far as to deny any wrong doing and tried to say it wasn’t as bad as she was saying (they were all unaware of the video/audio at that time). They too, are looking to have this man held accountable for his actions!! They have also contacted USASF. I want to know why, with all this attention to bullying and bully coaches, this man has yet to be held accountable!! I am not going to bombard your email with everything I have, but if you are interested, I will send anything you request.

  37. Kathleen Maloney says:

    My son is on the HS Freshman Basketball team. He is being bullied in the locker room. In one incident his towel was taken while he was showering so that he was forced to walk through the locker room naked while the boys made fun of him. And he is not alone. Another boy was urinated on in the shower. I want to take it to the administration but my son doesn’t want to because the team will “hate” him. He believes it will get worse and not better if he takes it to the coach. It is so difficult to see him in so much pain. I don’t know what to do.

  38. He should go to the coach or AD and explain what’s happening.

  39. My son was attacked by a teammates dog when my husband kindly agreed to take the other child home from practice. It was a pretty serious injury resulting in a lawsuit between the two insurance companies. My son is very athletic, smart and an outgoing kid. The parents and owners of the dog have become very aggressive and negative against our family and son. They constantly belittle our son, spread rumors that we are “suing” them and bad mouth our son from the bleachers. Now other parents are joining in and complaining that our son is favored by the coach. The coach is very involved with our son and has worked hard to assist him in becoming an outstanding player, but he will not put a stop to these other parents. Our son was recently suspended from school (as well as the dog bite son) due to playing a game of basketball that was too rough and the dog bite owners child complained saying that my son hit him. My son admits he fouled him but apologized and there were other fouls committed during this rough game. The mother called and cussed me out for 40 minutes and refused to take her son to a tournament if my son was allowed to play. We are tired of living like this. It’s like walking on egg shells and my son is miserable at school and on that team. It’s been going on for 3 years.

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