I am sure you have seen the stories in the news recently about the high school football team in Sayreville New Jersey that has had the rest of their season cancelled due to bullying. This is certainly not the first time a sports team has been in the news for bullying and I am sure that there is bullying happening in locker rooms and on fields all across the country.
What exactly is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Obviously this definition encompasses a lot of behaviors! What might this look like on a sports team?
- Hazing or initiation of new team members.
- Verbal or physical intimidation.
- Threats of violence or physical harm.
- Spreading rumors.
- Purposely excluding someone from a group activity.
- Physical harm.
Unfortunately, bullying isn’t just limited to team members. Coaches and other adults may also be directly or indirectly involved.
What to do!?
We need to start talking to our athletes early and keep the conversation going about bullying in sports. One effective way to stop bullying is for team members to learn how to quit being bystanders and to do something. Here are some things that players can do.
- Don’t join in. Don’t laugh, encourage or give the bully attention for their bad behavior.
- Tell the bully to stop.
- Help the person being bullied get away (if you can safely).
- Diffuse the situation. Sometimes appropriate use of humor can deescalate a situation and allow everyone to walk away.
- Be with the person being bullied. Bullies are less likely to say or do something if that person isn’t alone.
- Stop gossip. Don’t spread information that is harmful or untrue.
- Think about what they would want someone to do to help if they were being bullied or harassed.
- Tell an adult. Most bullying goes unreported. Including more people can help the problem.
All of these things take tremendous courage and every situation is different. And, I am certainly not advocating that a young athlete put themselves in harm’s way. Talk with your athlete about ways they can safely intervene if they see bullying on their team.
October is bullying prevention awareness month so this is the perfect time to start the conversation. Let’s not allow bullies to take away the great things kids get by participating in sports. It’s time to eject bullying from the game.
Have you seen bullying in your teens sports?
What else can we do to stop it?
More information on bullying: