When Coaches Yell, Insult and Intimidate Sports Kids

Youth Sports Psychology

Dealing Coaches Who Bully in Youth Sports

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.

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67 thoughts on “When Coaches Yell, Insult and Intimidate Sports Kids”

  1. While I am sure there are coaches that bully kids there are equally as many parents that bully coaches. I have been involved in coaching for several years and I have never seen the kind of parents that now exist in sport. They will discipline their kids, they expect a winning team without any support of the coaches. they will not push their kids to be the best they can be. It is terrible. I am a caring coach that worries about her athletes and it is ruined on a daily basis by parents that coddle their kids and expect lots but are not prepared to stand by the coach. They always believe their kid, never believe the coach and all the way around I am not sure why people coach. It is a love for the sport but parents need to back off and let their kids deal with their issues and find a backbone.

  2. Hello Dr. Cohn,

    I agree with you about “bully coaches”.
    Bully coaches are prevelant in our school system from the high school down to 7th grade.
    The younger coaches played basketball for the varsity coach and they were all mentored by him.

    Last year I coached my son’s 6th grade travel basketball team. The boys had a great time, played very well and won 80% of their games. They were not afraid to make mistakes and played freely. I rarely yelled at them and never embaressed any of my players but didn’t coddle them either. We worked on fundamentals in practice and executed them in games. Our conditioning was done in meaningful and fun drills. Some parents commented that their sons enjoyed going to practice.

    This year I attended the 7th grade games and watched the same group of boys play with apprehension and fear of making mistakes. You wouldn’t believe it was the same team!

    When I watch the high school kids, they head to the bench when they make a mistake because they know they are coming out. The coach screams at the players on the court and doesn’t even look at them when he takes them out! These teams nearly always lose the game if it is close because fear takes over. How would anyone like to play for a coach that calls the team “his worst ever”?

    I have also noticed that bully coaches like to ensure that they are friends with the athletic director and would be very difficult to remove. We have decided to send our son to another school system.

    In regards to Jan’s comments about parents, that is another issue. There are some crazy parents out there who are living their lives through their children. Fortunately, I only had to deal with two of them!



  3. I know there are coaches that bully their athletes but I also agree with Jan that the many parents bully their coaches as well.
    I am a very caring and dedicated coach of a very competitive 12 year old girl’s national club team. I coach because I love the kids, the sport and it is my way of giving back to a sport that has been more than kind to me over the years. The parents who think they can bully a coach do sapp the fun out of coaching. To combat that and to help my kids with the mental part of their game I have submitted myself to coaching the parents in addition to coaching my athletes. I try to coach my parents in reference to being positive with their ahtletes and help them release their athlete to the sport. I have to admit it is hard work but it is paying big big dividends and thus so worth my effort. The kids are the winners in the end and after all it is all about them.
    Sometimes parents are the root cause of under-performance. The team just won a large tournament this past weekend and one of my parents of an athlete who had a great week of practice and a great tournament told her child some very negative pre-practice advice when dropping her off for practice and the child had a horrible practice. I talked to the ahtlete and then the parent after practice and got to the bottom of it. I was appalled at what I heard she told her child. I am quite sure the ride home from the tournament took all the fun out of the tournament for that athlete as well. It sure took the wind out of my sails from the great tournament the two days earlier. I can’t tell her how to parent but I can help that ahtlete while she is on my court and to help teach her how to shut off the outside interference and focus once she steps on the court.

    High school coaches are the worst sport coach bullies in my opionion. They know they have you trapped and you cannot do anything about it except transfer to a different school – which in my opinion is not a reason to transfer. My daughter was bullied to death by her high school coach and the worst thing is I don’t even think the coach had a clue she was even doing it. The verbal degrading and abuse was almost unbearable. Girls generally do not have an over abundance of confidence so a coach can wipe it out in a single season. My daughter just kept saying I can’t wait until club season – it was sad to witness but I worked hard to try and undo all the damage the high school coach was doing to my daughter. It would be nice if coaches who bully their ahtletes could be voted out of high school sports.

  4. I have coached soccer at just about every level and also have a “sometimes” sports child.

    I would agree that many coaches default to what I call “evaluating instead of teaching”. This happens at many levels, to the extreme of “bullying”

    I also think that parents are not patient enough to let growth experiences develop in sports, some to the level of “rescuing” immediately.

    I think that reducing educational materials to the topic of “bullying” only takes care of half of the equation.

    Both coaches and parents need to be consistently reminded and educated on what the youth sports experience is supposed to be about … developing people.

  5. My son has been involved with competitive swimming for 10 years and I have seen enough bullying in sports to last 10 life times. Out of over 10 coaches, my son had 2 that were against bullying. The others either bullied or condoned it. One coach would scream insults, putdown and humiliate the kids that didn’t train or perform to his satisfaction. Other coaches would simply ignore the bullying and say it just part of growing up. Another coach said that it isn’t bullying unless it involves physical violence. This year, my son missed a lot of practice sessions as he prepared for grade 12 exams. He got 90% on his exams. Instead of congratulating him, the coach said he was ashamed of him for putting school ahead of his swimming, afterward; the coach ignored my son and refused to coach him.

    I have to say that many of these coaches react to bullying parents and that most parents are obsessed with winning. They yell and scream at their kids and the coach and they join the club boards to make sure they get their way by threatening the coach if he/she doesn’t bully the kids.

    Last year my son made Canada Games. The kids that didn’t make the team severely bullied my son. They called him names, humiliated him, smashed his possession, spit on him, urinated in his locker, slammed him into the wall and finally threatened him with a knife. What happened when the coach and the main sports organization found out? They made the bullies apologize, banned them from competing for 6 months and put them on probation. What happened to my son? He was forced to leave the swim club and move elsewhere as the bullies parents were on the board and not one parent on the board saw anything wrong with what the bullies did. The bullies were welcomed back to the club like heroes and allowed to practice.

    And then the government wonders why kids today are not active and obese. It’s safer and cheaper to just sit at home and play video games. Sports are the home of bully parents and their kids.

  6. my problem is with coaches is that the parents that coach feel “entitled” to let their kids play the whole game. My son plays rec pee-wee football, where everyone should play. there have been many kids drop out because the coach sits them during games while their kids play offense and defense the whole game. I have approached the coaches, and they are so arrogant. They feel that they should run up some statistics for their kids so that they will get drafted in the NFL. Mind you, that they are inteh 4th grade. It’s ridiculous. The head coach even told me that he doesn’t want to coach kids that aren’t “commited” to pee-wee football. Hell, he’s got kids that want to play sitting onthe sidelines. Even in their last game, two players sat the entire game except for the last play! And that play they just let the clock run out. What a load of BS! Next season, my son will try the Pop Warner League, instead of the snobby Kinnelon Rec.

  7. I just sat and read these stories, it breaks my heart. I hope the following contributes to discussion on the topic. I’m frustrated by the ‘professionalization’ of youth sport (at an increasingly younger age) by parents/adults (includeing sport leaders) living vicariously through their child/athlete. When I was young I played football (mostly in the school yard with my buddies, ice hockey when there was natural ice and baseball – always with my friends, oganized for the most part with/by my friends; sport was more a leisure activity, a right of passage, a trial by fire if you wish, where an athlete took risks (make a decision to go left or right) and execute a ‘good move’ (cheered by team mates) or ‘not so good move (laughed at my teammates), where we tested our limits (were no subs), which allows us to grow (behold the tortise he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out). I had coaches that yelled at me, I had good coaches and bad coaches but seasons were short and I was on teams with kids I knew, I was part of a ‘player pathway’ to the NHL or CFL (there was no draft) if you were good you moved to the top, if you weren’t so good you kept the dream and played for the ‘love of the game’. I’m a PE (formelrly early and middle years now high school) teacher and have coached all the sports (hasard of trade) and I’ve been a rugby coach for the last 35 years and a player (still active) in my 43rd year (leanred the game as teen ager) and just recently we (rugby) have taken the professional rules (rugby union has now been a professional sport around the world for just over a decade) and applied them to the ‘grassroots’ (which used to be young men but now includes youth) game. many ‘non/less athletic’ (we used to claim there was a place for every player regardless of shape or ability – rugby clubs have several sides) players are leaving the game as leadership caters to ‘national championships’, ‘world ranking’ and finding the future stars. Nobody has asked the ‘grassroots player’ what is truly important to them about playing the game. I try to put the athlete at the center of every program I’ve been involved with, but I’m increaslingly frustrated by the demands of sport leadeership, the ‘entitle child’ and the ‘entitled attitude’ of parents, where they believe their child in ‘special’ – my attitude is ‘they are all special’. I know that there are great programs out there run by caring people developing wonderful future leaders/citzens. Sometimes I get carried away I let my passion out! Hopfully this time it helps discussion/debate regarding how we behave. As much as I love sport (rugby in particular) it is after all ‘just a game’ – incidently I don’t remember all the games I’ve played much less the scores. Bless those who give a child a good sporting opportunity, be it a parent, coach, administrator – a good example might be worth more than we think.

  8. I AM GUILTY! One of the reasons I stumbled across this website is because I am a frustrated but well-meaning mother that has put pressure to perform on my children. Now that I’m aware of it, I don’t know how to undo the damage I’ve done nor do I know how to address the orginal issue that led to my behavior. Although, I am counting on the information here (and materials I am going to read by Dr. Cohn) to give me much needed direction.

    Here’s the gist of my situation:
    I have two daughters that have played competitive basketball for more than a decade, collectively. The younger (who is now a freshman in high school)has not only a height and speed advantage, but also the benefit of an older sibling that’s passed down skills to her at an earlier age. Last year, the youngest daughter even made ALL AMERICAN at a national tournament as a starter for a national championship team. No one was happier than my oldest. However, I’ve been putting pressure to perform on my youngest daughter for 2 reasons (excuses?) 1) she has dreams of playing in college and 2) she now has the same varsity coach that my oldest daughter had who mistreated her and several other girls that have since quit the team.

    Last year, my oldest daughter decided to quit the team her senior year. Officially, she announced her decision to her teammates that it was because basketball was no longer her passion but that she would (and did) continue to make the games and cheer them on. Behind the scenes, the real reason was conflicts with an assistant coach who had 3 daughters on the team. The head coach and the AD are great friends with this assistant, so our attempts to discuss matters and see any positive changes proved useless. We weren’t arguing playing time, understanding it’s competitive. My family is, however, of the opinion that if an athlete is good enough to make the team, then that athlete is worth developing and made to feel like they have something to contribute. As a parent, I went respectfully and PRIVATELY to the coaches on behalf of, not only my daughter, but ALL of the girls. When I voiced my opinion of unequal treatment, the explanation was that he had one daughter imparticular that had “God-given talent” and was too fragile to treat the way he did the other girls. The head coach agreed by saying this player was the ONLY girl on the team that had that talent…and that sentiment had been voiced to the rest of the team. (???!!!) I was told that my oldest didn’t have any talent and probably shouldn’t even be playing basketball (yet she made the team ?). He said she was like one of his 3 daughters (who is 6th man in while mine sits the bench …yet they are supposedly the same skill level). So, my oldest made the decision to let the drama die, quit the team, and try not to damage her teammates in leaving. Now, my youngest daughter who won awards last year is sitting the bench this year because of this coach. It’s so bad that people keep asking how she was injured because they assume that’s why she isn’t playing. To make it worse, my youngest daughter has wanted to quit basketball altogether and has only agreed to staying if I attend every practice. She says the coach isn’t mean to her when I am around. Several families in our program are aware of what’s going on (because it’s happening to other girls on this team) but the powers that be are turning a blind eye to it because this guy has so much influence. So, to compensate, I pressured her to work harder thinking that would help but it’s only made things worse. She’s lost her confidence and is now believing the coach when he tells her she doesn’t have what it takes.

    I don’t want to go to another team, although she could and probably even start. I want her to learn a life lesson about working hard and making it through an unfair, difficult situation. The truth is…I am trying to teach her something I apparently never learned. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even remember what it was like when basketball used to be fun and positive. That’s tragic.

  9. We think you should find a team in which the coach is fair about playing time and does not play favorites, if you have tha option. Your daughter may never get the chance to use her skills based on what you said in the email.

  10. I’m not sure if my concerns fall under the label bullying, insulting or even intimidating but certainly frustrating. My son plays ice hockey and is a goalie. He is small but very hard working and admittedly less talented than the team’s other goalie but not greatly. The biggest difference between the two goalies is commitment and attitude. The other goalie hasn’t completed a single dryland practice the entire season (5 Months) and complains and talks back to coaches almost every practice. The head coach admits and knows very well the above mentioned issues but continues to reward the other goalie with playing the important games and more games. I know your reply would be to find another team but the same problem persists on other teams and sports as well. All to often I see kids with that natural talent but lesser commitment and attitude being rewarded. It seems at an early age we adults and coaches see that kid with talent and tell them how good they are to the point that they develop an attitude of being invincible and they can’t be replaced. As they get older this attitude grows. In the mean time the committed kids with great attitudes give up and eventually find other things to do. I honestly believe we have fewer and fewer coaches with any backbone. Is it wrong to bench a player with these bad attitudes? What ever happened to leadership? What happened to teaching kids life lessons through sports? Well maybe these are life lessons for the kids who bust their tails trying to get noticed but certainly the wrong lessons for the kids who are rewarded for being lazy with a bad attitude.

    Thank you for a great newsletter.


  11. Can you think of any coaching situation where it would be forgivable that a coach and assistant coach had high school girls join them in throwing basketballs at another player to “teach her”? What should be done after the fact?

  12. No, I don’t see this as a good scenario. You might want to contact the AD or principle of your school. Keep in mind that you want to have evidence when you do approach a superior.

  13. I can relate to all of you who speak of their administrations turning a blind eye to the unprofessional, unethical, unbecoming behaviors of coaches. Many of you cite the option of taking your athlete to another school district. My spouse and I refuse to do that as we have four strong student athletes who should be able to exercise the privledge of playing on teams at their own small class C school. Has anyone chosen to take their case further than the administration?

  14. Bullying should not be tolerated. Bullying is considered a psychological violence which impact youth development. What would be the impact of bullying? First, it will put youth’s self-esteem and confidence down. Second, youth will view bullying as normal which is not. Lastly, bullying will be acquired by youth in the long run.

    I suggest that there should be a coach-parent partnership where coach and parents will talk about their roles, strategies to coach their children etc. In addition, there must be an agreement between coach and parents so that both parties know what to expect.

  15. I had twin daughters that played basketball. The coach used to put the kids down and the kids use to play soft and scared I seen these played with other coaches and they played more relaxed and was producing. One of my twins wasnt doing anything but getting more and more frustated. I took both off the team and they both are playing great and main thing having fun. Learning to play team ball and I’m really excited about how much progress they are making just learning to be a team player.

  16. It is a sad thing when adults don’t reconize what they are doing to these kids and what impact they have on their lives! The young players are in it to learn, have fun and be with their friends. They didn’t sign up to be put down and told they are horrible players. We have a coach with a win or lose will put the kids in a group and tell them how bad they played!! It is insane! All for the ego of the coach so he can say they won every…. What is so wrong about loseing a game!! The age for these boys are under the age of 11! If a coach is only all about winning he or she needs to step down because they are coaching for the wrong reasons! It is about the kids not the ego’s of grown men or women!

  17. My son has been playing “organized” sports since he was 5 years old (he is in middle school now). He has done rec. and travel. In rec. sports you are dealing with coaches who are parents. They have NO formal training on how to deal with all types of children, they only know how to deal with their own. I always felt rec. was a place to teach the kids “how” to play a game so they can learn which (if any) sports they enjoy. All kids should be playing, and having FUN! It is a pre-curser to middle school, high school, or if they choose-travel sports. I feel these parent/coaches have lost this purpose and I have seen kids ridiculed, sitting the bench, and parents of players covertly bullied as well. It is a sad state that we have evolved into. And, we wonder why kids are bullied? I see parents sucking up to coach’s so their child plays.

    I have also coached and had parents in my face, second guessing my decisions and screaming why their child hasn’t been out for every play. However, I don’t see them volunteering. That is why good, fair coaches quit and your stuck with the bad apples.

    Even travel sports is sometimes unfair. There are parents that suck up to the club’s heirarchy so that their child is picked. It is sometimes not based on the child’s ability.

    My son now plays for a travel team in which he was legitimately chosen. His coach is more professional. He has to re-teach his team some of the basics they were never taught. He never yells, and always explains what he wants the kids to do. This is my son’s best year yet and he is re-committed to his sport. He is actually having fun!

  18. My son was recently ridiculed by his HS basketball coach. It was first day of practice and my sons group of 5 were shooting 3 point shots in competition with 6 other groups. The coach was nearest to my sons group and noticed that some of the boys including my son were stepping on the line in shooting the shot. He immediately said that they were cheating and that their group were all a bunch of cheaters. The word “cheaters” was used 4 times. It all happened so fast that I didn’t say anything and the practice went on. Later, I e-mailed the coach and told him that I wanted him to appologize to the group. He did end up appologizing to my son. My wife thinks that I should have dropped it.My son feels that his chances to make a team influenced by this coach is now in jeopardy. The coaching staff has highly negatives methods in “training” the students. I have yet to speak with the coach post appology and wonder what is the best stance.

  19. Negative methods of training will not win over the kids who play on the team. They will soon resent the coach. Personally, I think you should speak up about this, but that’s just one opinion.

  20. My son is 9 and has been playing “up” a league for 3 years in a club coached by professionals. He loves to play, and seems pretty good at it. But last year two “dad” coaches took over his team “to help out”. They are bullies, and they play their sons in every, entire game. My son used to play every weekend, and travel to tournaments all over the country. Now he plays about 5 minutes per half, in the games he is asked to be in, and he is not invited to tournaments. He is told that he hasn’t earned more time, he isn’t tough enough, and every other negative thing you can imagine. I have watched the practices and the games – and my son has really changed. It makes me so sad to see what they have done to him. I have spoken to both dad coaches, and they are pretty macho – saying I couldn’t understand their methods since I’ve never played soccer. Parents: don’t buy it. If you think your kid is being bullied and ruined, believe your instincts. I’ve talked to the club director about this, and asked him to release my son so he can play elsewhere. Since he’s only 9 – I hope that he will forget about this year, and be able to play happily again like he used to.

  21. My son has played hockey for 8 years, 6 at a higher level. We have had a variety of coaches, incluing one that was pretty strict and rumored to be harsh on some more than others. But this years coach is horrid. I know a few kids that are scared to make mistakes, scared he will scream at them (which he does in front of all the team even in games causing a scene), scared they will have ice time taken away or they won’t get to play at all.

    But in addition to all of this, as if it isn’t bad enough parents in the stands yell degrading things at the team. It boils my blood. If you say something they actually yell back at you & feel as if they have a right to do it. Even to kids that aren’t their own. I have mentioned my frustration to other parents who only will state that he is worse to his own son on the ride home so they don’t dare upset him. I myself don’t care what he says to his son, I won’t tolerate him screaming at my child. Problem is that this parent is friends w/the coach & they both are “buddies” w/the board that I would report this to. We even pay this coach!!! To make matters worse we also paid the registration fees upwards of $1k……Any advise? Anyone seeing similar things?

  22. Oh God yes — went to Nationals on a Girls Ice Hockey team last year and came in second. This year the coach of a U14 girls team has the literal “dream team”. Last year he was fun but when he blew the whistle it was all business. This year he’s a bullying b****rd. It’s horrible, he’s not cultivating skills in girls who made a top tier team, his wife managers and screens all emals and calls so there’s no “discussion”. AT a Thanksgiving tournament he screamed at the refs so much they always flipped questionable calls to the other team and who could blame them? After the girls first game, at which he benched his own daughter for the first period (defense) when we were already short a defenseman and our girls lost, he screamed that they sucked. Seriously? Dude, you benched a good defense player for a whole period because of a fight on the way to the rink then scream at everyone else. Oh, he didn’t just scream, in the locker room he picked up a stick, whipped a hockey bag around, out of which fell a street hockey ball — right into the face of a player. These girls are 11 – 14. Not to mention how expensive other chldren’s equipment is. My daughter refused to go to practice this past week. As did 2 other players, there were 6 emails to other coaches and one parent is considering a grievance. Will see what happens at games this weekend, if he benches her. The players are now petrified and screwing up royally. My daughter has been moody and teary all night while getting ready to travel. I told her it’s not about her and she needs to understand this is the first of many times in her life she will encounter “crazy” but we have her back, so relax…if benched watch and learn, if she plays, make herself invaluable on the ice because she comes home to us, not her coach..We did send an email and the other two coaches are trying to talk to him but he doesn’t listen. (However the female coach said the girls deserved his actions). I’ve told my daughter to never be alone with him –what freak is a 50+ year old man who pulls this stuff with pre-teen and teenage girls? Sure some parents coach, but there is code of ethics for coaches and like it or not you are under scrutiny, if you can’t handle the heat…get out of the locker room. You can coach my kid in a sport but don’t ever undermine my parenting and my parenting is not to whack a 13 year old girl in the face with a hard street hockey ball. Don’t get your rocks off by bullying or showing what a “man” or “woman” you are with my kid and her team. I’m the least competitive hockey mom you will ever see, I belive whether a refs call is right or wrong you respect it, you listen to the coach and let yelling go over your head but the best thing that could happen for my daughter’s team this year is the coach quitting because we can’t…there aren’t enough girls teams in the area and the club won’t release you to another. What a mess, all because of an overgrown child trying to fulfill his fantasy of a Nationals win….shaking my head…..I did text his wife and ask her if he behaves like this at home and if she needs help because you cannot tell me that someone who can’t control themselves in an arena such as this is any different or even worse behind closed doors.

  23. My daughter just went through a horrible year with her competitive swim coach. This woman called her names, would not allow her to get out of the pool when she was injured, and encouraged her squad to ignore and bully her. She laughed at our daughter’s goals and ignored her at a qualifying swim meet. The whole thing, I believe, stemmed from either jealousy or fighting between her son, who was in the same squad, and my daughter.
    She was 11 when it started, and was a provincial level swimmer. We are still dealing with the fall out. My daughter is still struggling with her self confidence and is mistrusting and guarded with her new coach.
    Things are looking up as the coach has been let go from our club. However, she has affiliated herself with another club. I am concerned she may do the same thing to other kids, and am wondering if I should report her to the provincial swim authority?

  24. If you feel like your daughter’s well-being was harmed or abused by this coach, you should report the coach. Best if you have evidence to support your claim.

  25. I found this website searching bad coach behavior so I will be reading these articles. Our teenage son’s high school football experience has soured because of coaches who do not want their players to have any fun. My son’s shoulder was injured and he continued to “man up” as the coaches say, and continue playing because he didn’t want to be made an example of in front of other players. One night at practice his coach told him to get in line for a drill and he told the coach his shoulder and arm hurt too much. The coach told him to quit whining over aches and get in line. When my son refused, from that day on their relationship has been bad even though he eventually ended up going to doctors who wrote orders to the coach and he missed the rest of the season. Recently, the team has started winter conditioning, and my son returned hoping to get that behind him. He missed a night to work at an after school study table to get help with homework, and the next day several of the boys told him the coach brought up my son’s name in a “pep talk” and told them “we are looking for serious players, not a p***y like (said my son’s first and last name). I am so mad I could spit, but his Dad told him, if you still want to be on the team then don’t quit, but you have to be a better man than this the coach and just go play because you are going to have to deal with idiots like this all your life, He really loves football and its so frustrating to hear all of this nonsense. We want our kids to respect coaches, but how can we ask him to respect this? His Dad told him if you quit then they win, stick around and make their life miserable. Haha. Seriously though, It is hard for me to not get involved but sometimes I think guys work things out different than I would.

  26. My 17 year old daughter was bullied relentlessly this year on her high school gymnastics team by her coach. she was screamed at in front of her entire team after every meet, called names, criticized for everthing including how she talked, how she looked, what she wore. She was hanged in effigy. The coach drops the F bomb all the time. It went on and on. I plan on going to the AD, but I don’t have any hard core evidence. Other students have complained to the AD, but many have not for fear of retaliation.

  27. Other parents, please help me!

    My daughter has been screwed over by her coach for a place on a state team (she beat the other girl in every race of the season except two back in November). She beat the other girl even when she was sick and advised by her doctor not to race, but did so to let a C team have a field of four and be able to race a relay.

    Worse, the coach used unethical processes – promising my daughter a spot on the state team and then later stating that she was actually leaning toward the other girl, deciding on the other girl the day before the last race (at which my daughter beat the other girl). When I complained up the ladder and stated to all involved I would provide statistics from the races that showed my daughter was the better choice, the coach made a final, final decision without looking at the stats. “Some things cannot be written on paper” stated the coach and the principal and assistant superintendent backed her, stating “coach’s decision.”

    The state races are going on right now. Ironically, my daughter’s photo with other top girls is on the cover of the official program.

    What advice I need from you:

    I’ve figured out:

    -it’s best I keep my emotions about this separate from my parenting her. When I get overwhelmed, I go to my room and shut the door.

    -it’s best if I not be around the skiing world right now. (I needed to be at the State race yesterday and the dissonance between how I was feeling and the rest of the ski world was overwhelming). Today my husband went in my place.

    -the best thing is to let my daughter call the shots on decisions around the sport now (she was named alternate and has had to go to each meeting, race, awards ceremony etc – I don’t know how she does it.

    -I tell my daughter I’m proud of how she is handling herself – going to these events, not dividing the girls with taking sides, gossip, etc. Fortunately, she is close to girls at the rival high school from involvement in high-level racing and her boyfriend is also from that school. She can hang with them and get some relief. Still she’s devastated – crying, losing things, unable to concentrate. I haven’t seen her cry since she was five.

    What I need:
    -Right now my daughter is planning to ski under this coach next year – I feel I need to support her decision – she says she wants just to forget about this. Do I let her go through with her denial that this could happen again and just let her take her knocks? Next year is senior year and she’ll be applying to colleges – being screwed over again will be even harder next year. I’ve asked the coach to respond to me in writing about the process and she hasn’t – I doubt she will – I see no changes in store for next year from this coach. I’ve cced up the ladder about my concerns on the process and also no response.

    Thanks for any help you can give me.

  28. THANK YOU!! I have now identified the coach of my son’s freshman team. As I sit here putting together a “professional” letter on behalf of our team’s players and families to send to the Athletic Director to complain about him. And love your paragraph “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.” They ALL have said they want to quit the team. And these are all boys that we have watched grow up on the field , and love the game. I agree that there are some pain in the ass parents out there…and is why I have waited to the end of the season to make my complaint, and just skip talking to him because other parents have, and he can’t relate because he says “well that’s how I was coached”…hmmm vicious cycle. soooo anyhooo, so glad to have stumbled across this blog and with be using it as a resource in the future.

  29. Wow is all I can say here! I am one of the parents that have gotten tired of the bullying! My daughter is 17 and going to be a senior. She has played for the last 4 years and can serve to an exact spot when asked too! The problem started last year with a new coach who played on some big shot vb team. He thinks he has the right to yell at the girls because of this. Anyway my daughter came home from practice with a swollen nose and abrasion on her lip from falling face 1st on the ground. The coach never asked her if she was ok, nor did anyone get her ice. After she fell she “bucked” it up and kept practicing. The problem came when they were running laps and the coach told them all because my daughter wasn’t smiling they could run 4 more laps. When she told me this I got very upset. That was so wrong on so many levels! I called him and aske why this took place and was told my daughter was lying. He also said if she had a problem she should talk to him. Well I made it clear “I” had a problem and if it happened again I would be reporting it! Well from that day forward he treated her horribly and it has gotten progressivly worse. I was hopeful he would not be coach again this year, but no such luck. When at a practice a couple weeks ago ( my daughter asked me to attend, as I had been staying away so she could handle it per her request) he was yelling at girls as usual but when my daughter made a mistake he screamed her, so badly the entire gym got quiet. I had had enough. I have spoken with the ad and am suppose to have a meeting with him, coach, my husband and my daughter. I have to say after all I have read, I am not thinking this will do much! I don’t know if she will even make volleyball varsity now but she seems to be ok with that. It is sad as she is really good and I hate to see how depressed this whole thing has made her! My take on this is what if coach is allowed to continue this type of behavior and one of the girls is not as strong as my daughter and takes her life over the way she is being treated. The team seems so unhappy and afraid of making a mistake it is just awful!! What can we as parents really do?

  30. 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 daughters. Our oldest daughter was a Special Needs student and was bullied the worst.

    We took our concerns to the Superintendent and even the Town Board of Education, but we were not taken seriously. 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…” We attempted to speak before the Town Board of Education and 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, at times we felt powerless but it only made us stronger in other ways. Our attorney was most surprised by the schools lack of concern and unwillingness to resolve the situation.

    We have 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 Hearing Officer found that my oldest daughters Civil Rights were violated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The school has sought to appeal this decision and we are currently awaiting trial in Federal Court. The local News channel recently covered the story and can be seen on youtube.com at, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWvEWzzBETU

    For all those parents that find it too difficult to fight city hall, don’t give up for what you believe in. In the end, justice will prevail and the findings will benefit all of us by forcing schools to be responsible and accountable for their actions, or in our situation, lack of actions.

  31. Our daughter is 11 yrs old and is a rep soccer player. Her current coach yells and provides such negative feedback that it is starting to effect our daughter’s performance on the turf. What the coach calls “tough love” is only crushing her spirit and sending her the message that she is not good enough. Her play used to be strong and confident, but now it is tentative and inconsistent. Ironically, our daughter says she still loves playing soccer. I’m worried that this kind of “bullying” by her coach will have negative consequences not only on the turf, but in other areas of her life. At 11 yrs old, the game should be about learning, development, and having fun. We have spoken to the coach recently about his negative feedback and he used the words “tough love” because he believes our daughter has it in her to reach higher. I think it is going to be hard for her to reach higher when her confidence is continually shattered and degraded by this coach. We’re doing everything we can at home to help her believe in herself and take charge of her game, but so far, her performance on the turf is still inconsistent. It’s going to be a long soccer season this year.

  32. I have read the previous posts about parents bullying coaches, and I don’t buy it. An adult has the experience and abilities to disarm a bully—a child does not. A coach should have the support of the supporting organization to run a constuctive positive environement for all level of athletes. If the supporitng organizaiton is not offering what the coach needs, it is the coaches responsibility to speak up, make changes, or find a new organization to coach for. After all, by not speaking up the coach is just affirming to the bully parent that their behavior is acceptable.

    As for coaches bullying athletes, my son has experienced this first hand. As a competitive swimmer for 9 years, at 16 as a sectional qualifier, state champion and interest from many colleges he finally left the sport. His coach daily told him he sucked, kicked him out of practice, and humiliated him in front of his peers. The coach felt these were “motivational” tools and blamed the swimmer when he didn’t improve. When we tried to speak to the coach, he refused to discuss making any changes with us. The coach would then increased his abusive behavior towards our son. Our son’s grades dropped, he stopped communicating with his freinds and family, and slept when he wasn’t in the pool. Finally, to save himself our son walked away from the sport he previously loved.

    We set up a meeting with the club board and the High School administration. Both organizations talked to coach and said they did not find any reason for concern. Their investigations did not included talking with our son or other athletes who had reported the same behavior from the coach. The comments from the parent board were “It is not happening to my child, so it must not be happening.” We went further, and reported the abuse to Indiana Swimming and USA Swimming. Both organizations spoke with our son, and agreeded the behavior of the coach was not supported by their organizations, however, they could do nothing to remedy the situation as they had no by laws addressing bullying—therefore the coach had not violated any rules. We spoke out so strongly in our community, this coach threatened to sue us and we had to retain a lawyer.

    How does a parent change organizations that are unwilling to see their is a problem? How can a governing organizaion (IN Swimming/USA Swimming) not govern the clubs and coaches that they are responsible for? As a parent; when you have done your due diligence, been actively involved, and reported abuse: How do you protect your child? My biggest frustration is if I can get someone to listen, they are unwilling to step up and help make positive change. How can anyone sit by and let children be hurt? Something else parents and organizations need to be aware of: studies have shown that bullying is a LEARNED behavior. Athletes in these situations are learning this behavior—these are future coaches and parents of athletes. Doesn’t it make sense that these may be the FUTURE bullies of the sport?


    Holly Olson

  33. My daughter is feeling like she is being unfairly singled out for team losses… what is the RIGHT way to approach the coach so that she doesn’t get worse treatment after the conversation – I really don’t want my daughter to quit a game she loves… and has hopes of playing in college. She is a great athlete, but she is emotionally fragile because of things that have happened… do I let the coach in on this… or alert the school councellor to have a conversation with the coach? Hoping to receive some feedback on how to approach this before she quits….

  34. You might want to start with a conference with the coach. Put the focus on your daughter’s feelings and confidence instead of the coach.

  35. I feel so sad to hear all these horror stories. Both my daughters were bullied by coaches, each in a different sport. Sadly, these men didn’t realize the impact that their actions would have on both girls. One was egotistical and would do anything he had to to ensure a win. He created a team higherarchy and made sure that those who weren’t part of the clique were treated that way. He was verbally abusive to the players and the officials and chalked it up to being in the game. I chalk it up to being a total jerk. The second was a tyrant. In his quest to control everyone and everything, he successfully destroyed a team that had potential, condoned bullying by exclusion and destroyed friendships between girls who had been playing together for numerous years by elevating some and putting others down. Both men shared similar traits. They were not successful athletes of their own merit. So, they had something to prove. Unfortunately, they touched the lives of our children, not in a positive way. In their quest to be King of the Castle, they destroyed some budding athletes in the process. Fortunately, both have moved on and have blossomed under different leadership. It’s not always the kid, it’s not always the parent… sometimes it’s the little man trying to fulfill his fantasy.

  36. Our son is about 5 foot 10 and weighs about 195. He can bench press over 300 lbs and runs a 4.6 forty. He started at fullback and blocked exclusively last season as a Junior. The coach was nearly removed last season as coach due to recruiting and drug use on team with parents howling. He is a solid D3 and high school player not a star but a hard worker. The coach has gone with a youth movement preseason and recruited sophomores from other schools to play skill positions. “Potentially” these kids are better than our son on the field right now they are not. Our son was benched and when he spoke with the coach was told it was done to motivate him. The coach refused to speak with us because of the obvious recruiting. Our son before the first game asked to be switched to the line and the coach baited him into an argument and he quit the team. He got angry and quit and his grades are in free fall. He is really down and our heart aches for him. Never thought football could have that negative an impact.

  37. I’m just relieved that we aren’t the only ones going through this. We had a coach that has been coaching for the past several years. She has one daughter who graduated last year and was a started who played all around even though she was just average, and wasn’t good at all on defense. This year her other daughter who is a freshman luckily played JV because she already had 12 varsity on the team…8 of them seniors. She had 3 setters, one being my daughter. I ask you, what vball team out there has three setters? We rotated more than a rotissary! Her best friend’s daughter started and played all around even though she was absolutely lousy on defense. That girl’s best friend was the starting setter even though she was just average compared to the others, and neither of them played a day of vball club in the off-season even though all the others did and it showed. On top of all of the favoritism and politics, the coach screamed at the team every time they started losing a game, only to bring them down and make them despise her. She would yell at my daughter on every move she made, but if the other setter(one of her favorites) did the same thing, she wouldn’t say a thing to her. In fact, she would sit her down beside her on the bench and “coach” her. She went so far as to yell at the gals on the bench one time when her best friend’s daughter followed the ball all the way to the line and then didn’t pass it up. She blamed the gals on the bench to have called the ball….isn’t that the whole purpose of following it to the line…when in doubt….anyway, guess my daughter learned that in years of club ball…
    This is just the tip of the iceburg. I would love to take some of the parents complaints higher, but don’t know who to go to. Parents from previous years have complained to the athletic direct and principal, but nothing has happened to this lousy coach. She’s only there to float her daughters thru this sport and in the meantime, beat all the other players confidence right into the ground. Where else can we take this?

  38. Dear Heartbroken Parent,
    I’m really sorry to hear that your son went through this. If you feel strongly that this coach is doing damage, consider talking to the league or school about your experience. If other parents have complained, it’s possible that you will have an impact. In the meantime, are there other options for your son, sports-wise?

  39. Dear Vball mom,
    Sorry to hear you’re having these troubles. Have you tried to talk to the coach? We always recommend that you start with the coach, and when you’re talking, try not to blame or insult her. Try to tell her what kind of influence she’s having on the kids. You may be able to get through to her, even though others haven’t been able to. And if that doesn’t work, you should definitely go to the athletic director and principal. You never know…they may have had so many complaints they will decide to take action. You can also talk to someone with the league that runs the games. Please keep us posted!

  40. Hello,
    Thank you so much for having this website! I really need some advice in the extreme near future. I’m trying to figure out what to do for my 7th grade daughter. She has been in dance through a dance franchise outside of the school system since first grade. She loves dance and wants to dance professionally when she grows up. I know that she is not the greatest dancer ever, but she loves it and does a good job and works hard. She graduated from her troop last spring in preparation for her joining her school’s dance team this year. I’ve had a difficult time even getting practice times and dates from the school. They have finally started dance, and had tryouts. She had to come to the school every day for a week at 6:00 in the morning and then on Friday they had their tryouts. This is a small school, so there should be no problem getting a slot on the team. She and 2 other girls were chosen out of the 16 to be on the “practice team”. One other practice girl has 4 years of dance experience already. Their old dance coach is appalled by this placement. They cannot compete or even learn the dances. They just hang out in the back row and practice their spins and stretch. Other girls of the same age with less experience made the team as alternates. No 8th grade girls even bothered to try out because they knew it would be painful. They do not offer a JV team because they say there are not enough numbers for it.

    I watched their practice last night and was shocked. These girls were made to feel like complete outcasts. The other girls were learning their dances and these guys were told to sit and spin. My daughter is losing confidence so fast it’s making my head spin. I talked to the principal today and he told me that it was my choice to leave her in or take her out, but he wasn’t going to do anything about it. I do have the option to move her back to the school in the community where we live. Their academics are weak but their dance team is very good. They have a new superintendent now, so maybe she would be alright there. Right now I have to drive her 8 miles to her school that she has attended for about 2 years. I like the academics at this school and my daughter has friends at both schools. Am I being overprotective? There is a parent meeting tonight.

  41. VBall Mom – volleyball is just one of THOSE sports. It’s such a great sport but for kids (and their families that fall in love with it) it can turn terrible so fast, in the hands of immoral adults, that it can make your head spin!

    That’s what happened to our daughter. She fell in love with it as a 13 year old (WAY too late we were later told by the volleyball “gods/goddesses” in our area- evidently you have to start you kid when they’re 7 or 8 to ingrain them into a program and get them recognized as a “starting six”!) and due to superior athletics was put on some great club teams that went three years in a row to USA Junior Olympic VB Championships. We spent TONS of money but quickly realized our daughter was there to lower the average cost for the “chosen six” that the club/coach wanted to advance/promote. we were – our daughter was – strung along for these yearswith the promise of REAL playing time as long as she kept practicing and we kept coming back and kept writing more checks! We didn’t realize that by the time these girls reach 14, the clubs have picked their SIX and that those girls are the ones who are going to play. Sure, we’ve seen some families try to change that by sending the coach and his family on a Cancun/Caribbean vacation . .and we’ve seen it work once or twice, but I could never afford that. I thought playing time would be allotted by what was shown on the court . . .in practice . . .but I was wrong.

    My thought is for the effort, blood, sweat and tears my girl poured into this sport, and the dollars we spent, that the idea of just some meaningful and soul affirming play time wasn’t too much to ask for a girl placed on a team . . .but the unique aspect of volleyball . ..which is, no girls get truly EXHAUSTED during any game, match or tournament . . .makes it too easy for a coach to just stick with his/her six . . .forever and forever. That aspect of the sport, combined with that fact that a coach/club owner still needs more than the playing six for 1) meaningful practices 2) in case of any injury/sickness to one of the “chosen six” and 3) lower the average cost of club membership – especially for the families the coach/club owner REALLY want on the team . . .just make this sport too ripe for abuse for too many families. Yes . . .I acknowledge that there’s NO sport better than VB IF your kid gets in there by 11-12-13 and taken on by a coach. Outside ofyour girl getting arrested or pregnant . . .there’s not much that’s going to supplant your child from their “starting/always playing” status . . so long as you keep writing the checks!!

    There’s not enough room in this comment block for me to write about parental involvement in the sport that comes with the SOLE purpose of advancing YOUR kid (even if it means the self-esteem destruction of another child!!) – and this explains the involvement of SOOOO many immoral parents in the sport ESPECIALLY at the high school level! My wife and I both work, and I took on second jobs at night to pay for my daughter’s club, so we never could “volunteer” our time to help with the school team the way we’ve watched some parents bastardize the term “volunteer”. Their “volunteer” efforts were NOT made as we all generally think of volunteerism .. .and that is, done freely .. .with no expectation of personal gain! Heck no . . .the parents involved in my daughter’s high school program are there for one reason, and one reason only . . .advance THEIR child by gaining ALL the playing time for their kid .. .while hurting another child’s playing time . .even while they know that kid is just as good (maybe better) than YOUR kid. As you alluded to VBMom . . .if I had a dime for every volleyball player we watched start and play at our daughter’s high school with a playing WAY out of whack with their talent level . . .simply because that girl’s parent was an administrator or another type of employee of the school, or school district . . .I’d be a wealthy man!

    It’s so sad. It’s SUCH a great sport, but I can’t think of anything dirtier, more crooked and so capable of destroying the emotional well being of so many girls than club and high school volleyball simply because it gets entrusted to some very unscrupulous and immoral adults! I hope things get better for your daughter.


  42. Dear Robin,
    Thanks for writing in. You are really in a tough spot. I think you need to continue to do what you’re doing–weighing the pros and cons of both schools. If you move your daughter to the other school, will she have friends there? Will she lose anything except a bad dance experience at her current school? I really understand what it’s like to have a child who loves sports or dance. If that’s what makes them happy and motivated, I would try to do everything I could to ensure their experience is a good one. So ultimately that may mean moving her.

    I’m also wondering if it would be possible to stay at the school she’s at now, drop the dance team and find another dance opportunity? I know there are a lot of options for dancers out there right now.

    I hope this is helpful!

  43. Dear Jen,
    This sounds really frustrating. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with talking to the coach. But it’s critical to do this at the right time–not right after or during a game or practice (You can check out http://www.facebook.com/YouthSportsPsychology for a video about how to give feedback to coaches). Be respectful and tell the coach how this behavior has hurt your son. And you can always consider other teams, if there are any out there. There’s also lots you can do to improve your son’s confidence in this situation. Our Kids’ Sports Psychology website has many resources for boosting kids’ confidence, including an article about how to deal with bully coaches and an ebook about staying confident in the face of adversity. We also offer a program, “Helping Kids Stay Mentally Tough in The Face of Bullies,” which includes advice about how to deal with bully coaches.
    What’s most important is trying to understand and deal with how this coach is affecting your son and his confidence and sports experience.
    I hope this is helpful!


  44. Thank Lisa…I appreciate the input! He has his first practice since this game tomorrow…he’s ready to go out and give his usual 110 and he knows that we have his back—depending on how this weeks practices and Sunday’s game go, I may say something…my son has asked me not too, so for now I will honor that…but if it continues to be a situation where he seems to be singleing these boys out specifically, I might have to at least let him see our perspective…thanks again!

  45. I have a son that is a junior and I am having difficulties with the basketball program at our school. We have a pay to participate program due to financial difficulties in the school district, but our basketball program with a total of 39 boys trying out for 3 teams made cuts. They covered themselves by offering 5 juniors a spot on the JV. In our league the JV is freshmen and sophomores. We only kept 11 players on varsity and 14 on freshmen. 3 of the juniors said no this deal and a junior that was cut was later brought back to play on the JV. My son has been told not to play summer basketball and that regardless of ability he will be cut next year. I don’t understand why we could not have kept 13 or 14 on varsity and not cut anyone to begin with. This coach is trying to make himself a success with wins, but he hasn’t won anything yet. The JV coach is the biggest bully I have ever seen and my son has already had him for a coach for two years. He refuses to play for the JV coach. This man has coached for 3 years and has double digit technicals. When my son was a freshmen the coach had 7 technicals for arguing with officials and he would have had more, but the officials didn’t kick him out of the game because there weren’t any other coaches and the boys would have had to forfeit the game. He moved up to JV last year with my son and had I believe 4 technicals last year and did get two in one game and have to spend a game suspension. This is the kind of man that they want my son to play for for a third year. The varsity coach is very upset with my son for not playing JV and has told him he will not allow him to play next year. Given the atmosphere of this sport, I am not sure that my son will want to play next year, but I don’t think it is the purpose of high school sports to threaten kids. I have a younger son and I don’t want him playing for these coaches. He doesn’t want to play for them either, but I have always considered school to be about academics first. We have school of choice and my younger son is just in middle school, am I wrong to look at school of choice and find a school where my younger son will be able to play and enjoy the sport? His biggest concern is that he does cross country and track and loves the coach we have for this sport. Please advise as to what I should do. Basketball is his favorite sport, but he does not want to play for these coaches and I am not sure that he will be treated fairly. Thanks for any help!

  46. Here’s a response from one of our new bullying experts on KSP, Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., http://www.carlpickhardt.com:

    I believe the answer is in your question: neither you or your son want to play for this coach. What to do? Help your son understand this rule of life: choosing is always losing because the door to other options are closed by whatever decision you make. If basketball is the favorite sport, and the loss of track coaches is a price he is willing to pay, then transfer to the other school, but not before also assessing what may academically and socially be lost, and not before getting a line on how coaching is conducted there.

    The harsh reality of youth sports is that once a young person moves from a recreational league to a competitive one, as usually happens when entering secondary school, then the drive to win can bring out the best in some students and the worst in some coaches.


    p.s. Check out the new bully section of Kids’ Sports Psychology: http://www.kidssportspsychology.com/public/department101.cfm

  47. I just want to say thank you for this site and for all of the posts. As a parent of a football senior, I see on a daily basis what bully coaches are doing to our children/teens. The saddest part is that unlike the general advise given, speaking to the coaches about such bullying only causes further repercussions to your child. Going to the administration spreads this to any other staff that have heard of the complaint. There is no going to the top due to politics. High schools are all about sports and they rule/run the school. The best decision is to just not get on the team in the first place I guess which is so sad for the students. I have even taught my son to use Louise Hay techniques but this only works so long when you as the player continue to be ridiculed and insulted every single day of practice. Following a serious neck injury with the team doctor’s excuse not to even practice (although my son wanted to) and attending rehab on a regular basis, my son returns to practice to be told by the other players what one of the coaches said about him. This was not even his direct asst. coach. He said he would rather be a p***y than to be first name and last name of my son. It’s all too sad and continues each and every day. I am just thankful that my second child still in high school is not involved in sports. Thank goodness for the arts. Thanks again for this site and for the feedback from the doctors Cohn.

  48. SadMom,
    Thanks for writing and thanks for the compliment. Our expert, Dr. Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., offers this response:

    Bully coaches are pathetic people. Ruled by fear of losing and the lowered performance record losing can bring, they rule by fear because it works on them. They use their adult authority to intimidate and humiliate in a misguided effort to motivate. They believe the best way to get players to play better is to threaten them with feeling worse. But they are their own worst enemy because by seeking to dominate, they alienate. Play badly or not tough enough and you will be treated badly, is their guarantee.

    They never get the best out of their players because these young people are too scared to consistently play well. Instead of building confidence and trust and enjoyment of the game, bully coaches create a culture in which enduring mistreatment, or witnessing the mistreatment of others, is the price players must pay to play.
    They believe that silent, uncomplaining obedience is a sign of respect from adolescents, when it is actually an expression of contempt. “Coach gets his kicks from pushing some of us around. Not the star players, because he’s scared of messing with them, but with the rest of us. The grunts, the ones he can afford to lose.”

    Most adolescents see the bully coach for what he is — a small person who likes to act big by making those on his athletic team feel small. If as a parent your see your child has a bully coach, have a serious talk with your son or daughter about whether he or she still finds it worthwhile to play for such a person.

    Thank goodness that bully coaches are the exception, not the rule. Bully coaches tarnish the reputation of all the healthy coaches who provide a great growing up experience for the young athletes in their care.

    P.S. You can visit http://www.kidssportspsychology.com/public/department101.cfm for more about bullying in sports.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

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