Have your kids ever had a coach who yelled at, insulted or intimidated them? It's possible they have, but were too embarrassed to tell you. It's important for you to be on the lookout for bully coaches and to take immediate action if you suspect your young athletes are being bullied.
Bully coaches target all kinds of young athletes. They can set their sights on kids who are overweight, small, or who lack confidence, for instance. These coaches also target gifted athletes because they believe their approach will "toughen up" their athletes.
It's important to keep in mind that most volunteer coaches are not trained. Many of them use teaching techniques that their coaches used with them. Some of them don't understand they're acting like bullies. Many coaches will change their behavior if you approach them in an appropriate manner. We've received letters of confession from coaches who say that once they understood how much their words and actions hurt their athletes, they changed their style.
Whether a coach's bullying is intentional or unintentional, your job as sports parents is the same. If your athletes are teased, excluded or otherwise treated badly by coaches, you need to take steps to help keep their confidence intact, stay focused under adversity, and remain in sports.
The bottom line, for you as parents: Be on the lookout for bully coaches and arm yourself with the information you need to take action.
Stories From the Trenches
The many sports parents who have written us about bullying say their young athletes are teased, harassed, intimidated and threatened by bully coaches. Here's what some sports parents tell us:
"My daughter was bullied relentlessly on her high school gymnastics team by her coach. She was screamed at in front of her entire team after every meet, called names, criticized for everything, including how she talked, how she looked, what she wore. She was hanged in effigy." - Sports Parent
"Our teenage son's football experience has soured because of coaches who do not want their players to have any fun. One practice his coach told him to get in line for a drill and he told the coach his shoulder and arm hurt too much. The coach told him to quit whining over aches and get in line. When my son refused, from that day on their relationship has been bad. Eventually we took him to doctors and he missed the rest of the season." ~ Sports Parent
For more stories from parents visit the Youth Sports Psychology blog.