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Family Sports & Fitness

Bully Away Bullies

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Stand up for your right to be YOU and to not be bullied.

Bullying on the field
When one team member is targeted by another (or more), and exerts power with intent to harm, that’s bullying. There are several types:
  • Physical Bullying: Hitting, slapping, head butting, towel snapping, tripping, physical violence and force against another’s will.
  • Verbal Bullying: Name calling, unwanted nicknames, taunting, making fun of others, rudeness, and threats of violence.
  • Relational Bullying: Exclusion from the group, gossiping, “trash talk” intent on hurting or embarrassing a player in front of others
All forms of bullying can leave long-lasting scars on the victims. Bullying is where the line is drawn between fair play and foul play on the field and on the court. Fun, peer-to-peer “trash talk” is fair play, unless there’s an imbalance of power. Once the talk becomes hurtful and makes one person feel bad about themselves, it becomes foul play. That’s when someone needs to step in and stop it.

Signs of bullying
Parents, you can see subtle signs that your child is being bullied – or is a bully – on the field. Look for:
  • Changes in behavior: A shift away from a loved sport, a break in a friendships or disinterest in group activities.
  • Physical illness: Stomach aches, pain that prevents participation in the sport.
  • Changes in friendships: Frequently ask who your kids hang out with on the team and if they’ve seen anyone be bullied. Listen for cues that your own child may be the bully if they use words like “stupid” or “cry baby” and other hate speech.

What to do about bullying
No matter who you are, if you see bullying, you have to let the bully know it’s NOT OK.

For parents:
  • Be an advocate for your kids by helping them stand on their own.
  • Listen to your kids and let them talk about it. Work together to come up with a solution that won’t bring retaliation or more bullying.
  • Teach your children skills that will nip future bullying in the bud: Walking away, telling the bully to stop, or telling an adult about the situation.

For coaches:
  • Set the tone of support for everyone on the team, and don’t allow anyone to behave in a bullying manner. Establish a zero tolerance policy for bullying.
  • Be aware of your own tone, nonverbal messages and body language. Coaches who scream at players and tease them set an example that it’s OK for others to do so too.
  • Have a plan in place to punish bullies, such as making them sit out games.
  • Take the situation seriously if a parent or player comes to you about bullying. It was probably hard for them to come forward.

For teens:

  • If you are the victim of bullying, talk to your parents, teachers, coaches and friends about it. Don’t be silent!
  • Don’t stand by and watch. That will only lead to guilt and anxiety because you didn’t take action to stop it.
  • Don’t give bullying an audience.
  • Don’t join in. When a conversation turns into hate speech, walk away. When you see bullying, ask the bully to stop and offer a way for the victim to get away.
  • Set a good example by not being a bully. Ever.

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