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:
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:
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: