How to Stop a Bullying Coach

How Bully Coaches Affect Kid's Experience

Youth coaches are critical to kids' sports experiences. They can influence whether young athletes enjoy sports and want to continue to play. Some coaches get kids fired up about playing sports, while other coaches may discourage kids or take the fun out of sports. A good coach can keep kids' interest in sports alive.

Bullied kids think there is something wrong with them. This deflates them and creates a lack of comfort and security in sports. Often, young athletes' first reaction to being treated this way is shame. They don't want to talk about their experience. They feel as if they somehow caused the coaches to treat them badly.

What's more, bullying can hurt an athlete's confidence—in and out of sports. Sometimes kids say they can't get a bully's negative words out of their heads.

Kids who are bullied experience difficulty focusing on what they should focus on. They sometimes obsess about what a coach might say or do if they make mistakes or do something wrong. The kids are in fear. They focus on the wrong things during sports because they are preoccupied with gaining approval from the coach (or not disappointing the coach). Often they are afraid of how the coach will react if they make a bad move or decision.

Behaviors of Bully Coaches

Bully coaches often yell at, tease, humiliate and intimidate kids. Parents should never underestimate the importance of this type of behavior. It can really hurt kids' self-esteem.

As sports parents it's your job to ensure your athletes are in good hands. Bully coaches do NOT toughen up your young athletes, as they might insist. They don't improve kids' performance, either.

Coaches who bully—either with harsh words or physical harm—can hurt young athletes' self-esteem, undermine their social skills and make it hard for them to trust. In some cases, these coaches can make kids feel anxious and depressed.

More: 3 Sports Psychology Tips for Parents and Coaches

What's more, coaches who use such negative feedback are generally focused too much on one thing: winning or turning out elite athletes. They give kids the message that winning is everything. That makes kids focus too much on outcomes—such as the score or win. It can prevent them from reaping the social and emotional benefits of taking part in sports.

Focusing too much on the score or winning also can hurt kids' performance. They often develop fear of failure. That means they stop taking risks and they play too tentatively. That's because they're afraid the coach will yell at them or punish them.

About the Author

Award-winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and youth sports psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, "Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes."

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