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As a parent, it’s your responsibility to encourage children to do their best, both in their academic lives and sports. Unfortunately, the very sporting events that you ask your child to engage in can serve as avenues where they get bullied.

Whether they’re being intimidated by a member from their team or an opposing team, this can have a profound effect on their character, more so on their self-esteem. This article explains what you can do to stop bullying in sports.

Advice for Parents

Listen keenly to your child

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, you should investigate the matter further. Confront your child and ask them whether they’re being harassed by anyone in their sports team.

When discussing the issue, allow your child to do most of the talking. Have them explain what happened and how they feel about the situation. 

If your child is a little older, you can ask them what they want to do about the situation. By doing so, you’re encouraging them to become their own advocates. This way, they’ll be able to stand up for themselves even when you’re not around. 

Empower your kids

If this is the first time that your child is getting bullied, explain the steps they should take whenever such an incident occurs. 

You can advise them to walk away, inform an adult close to them – preferably a teacher or coach. You should also train them to confront the person bullying them. Recommend that they ask the bully to stop their actions, using a firm voice. 

Reach out to the coach

If the coach is not yet aware that your child is being bullied, you should inform them. 

Request them to arrange a face-to-face meeting. This will prove to the coach that you’re intent on seeing the matter resolved. 

Advice for Coaches

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Initiate the conversation about bullying

When most coaches look at their teams, they probably think, “None of these kids can be bullies”. While there is nothing wrong with expecting the best from a team, it’s also important to be realistic.

Children who get bullied can develop coping strategies that mask what they are truly going through. 

Therefore, you should not trust your gut when it comes to bullying. There might be kids who are getting bullied by others when you’re not around.

The best way to approach this is to initiate conversations regarding bullying. Make it known that bullying is not tolerated. Furthermore, ask anyone who encounters or witnesses acts of bullying to speak up.

Show athletes the right way to behave

Apart from prohibiting acts of bullying, it’s also important to create a positive team culture. For instance, you can schedule activities that require the kids to work together so as to foster teamwork.

Similarly, train them to support each other even when they lose games, as opposed to putting the blame on a single player. Doing so eliminates room for children to get bullied by their peers.

Break up cliques

Obviously, not all players are going to be best of friends. Many will get along well but others may not see eye to eye on some issues. 

But even then, coaches should watch out for cliques. Often, the formation of smaller groups within a team are what lead to bullying. If you notice any cliques, organize activities that force them to work with everyone else. If they’re practicing a particular routine in two’s, pair them up with kids who are not part of their clique. 

Set consequences for bullying

Even if you’ve established a zero tolerance rule on bullying, some kids might still engage in this behavior. For that reason, you should set clear consequences for those kids who are found to be bullying others. 

The degree of bullying will differ from one incident to another. Thus, the severity of the repercussions can vary from being benched to getting suspended either for a given period or indefinitely. 

Furthermore, you should talk to the bully even after meting out punishment. Find out why they’re intimidating their peers. You should also talk to their parents, informing them of their kids’ bullying behavior.

Conclusion

Bullying in sports occurs when an individual treats another in an unfair way on multiple occasions. Athletes who experience bullying are likely to lose their confidence and start performing poorly. 

Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help stop such behavior. If you’re a parent, encourage your child to talk about the incident. Also, advise them to stand up to the bully or walk away the next time it happens. You should also reach out to the coach and ensure that they take measures to stop the intimidation. 

If you’re a coach, you should initiate conversations regarding bullying so as to prevent incidents from happening in the first place. Furthermore, set clear consequences for players who will be found bullying their peers. 

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