By John O'Sullivan
March 30, 2016
A youngster chews on his mouthguard during the filming of the television docu-series "Friday Night Tykes" in San Antonio, Texas. (Walter Iooss—Esquire Network/Reuters)
“I think my kid’s coach is a bully, and I don’t know what to do,” a distraught parent named Dan said to me the other day. “My kid hates a sport he used to love. He has been called things by his coach that no kid should ever be called. Forget sports; this is trickling into every aspect of his life!”
“I’m a teacher,” he continued, “and if I treated my students like that everyone would go to the principal. But it is his coach, so we all stay quiet. I am afraid if I say anything to this coach, or to the school, my son will be the one who suffers. What do I do?”
Have you ever felt like Dan did in this situation?
Have you felt that your son or daughter was being treated in a way that had potential long term consequences far beyond the sports field, yet felt helpless to intervene because you were afraid it might even make the situation worse? Has your child told you “just forget about it” even though you see negative effects from the behavior on and off the field?
Could there be a more difficult situation in youth sports for a parent and an athlete?
Sadly, bullying behavior by coaches is not uncommon. Far more worrisome, though, is that it is often overlooked in the sport arena, by the very same educational administrators that would never tolerate such behavior by a teacher. In the club sports world, with far less oversight, I fear the problem may even be worse.
A year ago I set out to write this very article, and instead ended up penning one called Are Great Coaches Becoming an Endangered Species? I did so because in my experience people often misunderstand bullying, or mischaracterize tough, challenging coaching as bullying. Without rehashing that entire article here (and before you go off on kids getting soft and this is competitive sports, etc., I encourage you to read it as we are all for coaches who hold kids to a high standard when done the right way)
Here is a partial list of items that are often mistaken as bullying, but are in fact why coaches are so necessary in the life of a child. A great coach improves sport performance and teaches life lessons by:
- Positively pushing your child out of his or her comfort zone to improve performance;
- Demanding focus and effort each and every day, whether at practice or competition;
- Playing your child in an unfamiliar position to stretch his or her ability to handle adversity;
- Does not feel pressure to start your child every game to appease you, the parent;
- Having higher expectations for your child than you or your child has
- Having a different opinion of your child’s potential than you do;
- Expecting commitment and following through with reasonable repercussions for players who do not fulfill it, applied equally for every player;
- Expecting your child to adhere to team rules and standards;
- Holding your child to a standard that you might not hold him or her to, regardless of the effect it may have on the outcome of a game.
So what makes a coach a bully?
First of all, in this article Signe Whitson gives an important explanation of the differences between being rude, being mean, and being a bully. Being rude is inadvertently saying or doing things that hurt others. Many coaches use sarcasm in their coaching, and they unintentionally hurt their players. While these actions might seem to be bullying, according to Whitson, in context they are actually “incidents of rudeness that are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.”
Some coaches are downright mean, in that they intentionally say and do things to hurt others once or twice. Mean coaches are different from rude coaches because of the intent. “Why did I ever pick you for this team Johnny, you are a waste of a uniform.” “Jenny, you are so slow, and you are 20 lbs overweight, you really shouldn’t be out here.” These comments are downright mean, and not appropriate for a coach. Yet by definition, they are not bullying if they happen once or twice, according to Whitson (sadly, that one comment could still be one that makes a child quit).
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article: