6 tips to help coaches stop and prevent bullying in team sports

Bullying is something that occurs all too often. It can happen in school, but it can also happen in the sports that children take part in. As a coach, you need to know what bullying looks like, and put an end to the bullying on your team before it becomes a more serious issue. 

Bullying among boys is common, and it often takes a physical form such as pushing, fighting, and threats to do physical harm to them. With girls, the bullying may be the same, but it could also be more of a mental bullying that excludes them from groups, pretending that they don’t exist, or even calling them names. Regardless of the form that bullying takes, it does not belong in sports, so what can a coach do to stop bullying on their team?

1. Create a bond among the members of the team. If you work on team building exercises and focusing on supporting everyone within the team, the members of your team will start to share the same focus. Instead of being peers that they see at school, they will become more like family with a strong bond that is important to them. When your team has these close ties, bullying will not be as common.

2. Utilize parents and assistant coaches. As the head coach, you may not always be able to see what is going on with the members of your team, especially when you are in the middle of an intense game. Having assistant coaches in your corner means that the bullying is likely to be seen sooner. Any time that there is more supervision, there is less of a chance that bullying will occur. 

Parents may also see what goes on during a game or even during practice. Talk to the parents who have kids on your team to encourage them to speak to you if they witness bullying or hear that it is occurring within the team so that you can take care of it. Parents know their kids best, so if something is wrong, they will be the first to know.

3. Make sure that you include all of the players. Whether your team is performing drills or playing in an actual game, leaving a child out because they do not have the best skills on the team gives the other team members a tool to bully with. The last thing that you need is for the other members of the team to start saying negative things about members of the team. If their skills are subpar, then they need this practice to help them improve.

4. Treat all of your team members the same. When you have a team, you need to make sure that each and every child on the team feels that they are valued. This means that you cannot pick favorites. You need to push the idea that you are a team and that the success of the team depends greatly on each member of the team. You can recognize a great play or an MVP after a game, but never place them on a pedestal or insinuate that they are better than the other players on the team. This will only single them out and open up a window for bullying to occur. Make sure that you always emphasize the importance of each individual role on the team.

5. Teach the team members to accept others. It is great for your team to be close, but make sure that you encourage them to welcome new members to the team. The last thing that you need is for a new member to feel unwelcome because this is a form of bullying that can lead to them actually quitting the team because they feel like they do not fit in. 

When a new member joins the team, have them buddy up with a long time member of the team who has a lot of experience. This will help the new member feel more comfortable, introduce them to the other members of the team, and help them feel like they are part of the family instead of an outsider.

6. Take bullying seriously. Let your team know that bullying will not be tolerated. Put policies in place for bullying so that if it occurs, your team will know the consequences. If you see bullying within your team, make sure that you enforce the policies that you put in place. If you believe that bullying is becoming a problem on your team, then you can even make the consequences more severe. For example, you can have a team meeting and let the entire team know that if bullying continues, the perpetrator could be removed from the team.

Bullying is becoming more prevalent in sports teams, so it is up to you as the coach to address it. What are some other ways that a coach can stop bullying?

Jessica Kane is a writer for SteelLocker Sports, a leading retailer of brand name baseball equipment at great discount prices.