Helping Low-Income Kids With Bullying in Sports

Kaig Lightner, founder of Portland Community Football, a soccer club for low-income kids, says one of his main challenges is helping the kids–many of them Hispanic–deal with bullying.

“These are 10-year-olds who get called racist names on the field. We have to work with the kids and help them figure out how to work through their frustration and anger in these situations,” says Lightner.

The kids’ first reaction – like that of adults- is to be angry and lose focus. Of course, this hurts kids’ mental game and confidence.

He tells his players to acknowledge the anger and frustration, and then refocus on the game. Kids need to accept what they can control to overcome these feelings and continue to compete.

Kids need to learn they can’t control what others say about them, but they can control their reaction to what is said, as well as their play on the field, says Lightner.

Lightner says it’s  important to take the time to talk to kids about these issues. If any players are dealing with bullying and having a hard time, he brings them to the sidelines and takes time to hear them out and be supportive. He reminds them about what they can–and can’t control.

These are just some of the ways Lightner tries to boost confidence in low-income players.  He also ensures that kids get nice uniforms–even though the price of playing in the club is low.

To create a team culture that fights bullying, it’s important for coaches to create policies of acceptance. In addition, they should encourage kids to respond to bullying by playing well, not by yelling or hitting the bullies, says Lightner.

You can listen to the full interview with Kaig Lightner below:

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