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Sports Bullying – Definition

Sports Bullying – Definition

Throughout the world of athletics it is very common to see and experience verbal abuse and emotional mistreatment towards athletes, referees and coaches at all sporting disciplines. To a young athlete or referee this bullying and abuse can, over time, lead to severe and long-lasting effects on the referees and athlete’s social and emotional development. Bullying can occur both on and off the sports pitch and can involve athletes, parents, coaches, spectators or umpires. Every person in sport, in every role, has the right to participate in an environment that is fun, safe and healthy, and to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness.

Bullying can also affect an individual’s athletic performance, level of enjoyment, work or school life, academic achievement and physical and mental health. Whether it’s from parents, players or coaches, disrespectful behaviour has become a growing concern in our gyms, rinks and on our playing fields.

Bullying denies participants these rights and can result in feelings of disgrace, embarrassment, shame or intimidation. Bullying can also affect an individual’s athletic performance, level of enjoyment, work or school life, academic achievement and physical and mental health. A conscious, wilful, deliberate and repeated hostile activity marked by an imbalance of power, intent to harm, and/or a threat of aggression. Severe bullying can lead to a feeling of terror on the part of the person being bullied.

Bullying is partly defined by the subjective experience of the athlete. If the athlete feels shamed, frightened, or anxious around the coach due to his or her constant shouting, name-calling or threatening, then the label “emotional abuse” is warranted. Coaches who teach by being negative or intimidating can really hurt your kids’ confidence and enjoyment of sports. No, these coaches do NOT toughen up your young athletes, as they might insist. They don’t improve kids’ performance, either. Actually, 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.

Bullying before, during or after sports may appear as:

  • Blaming the target for mistakes.
  • Continually criticizing the target’s abilities.
  • Denying or discounting the target’s accomplishments.
  • E-mails or instant messages containing insults or threats.
  • Making unreasonable demands related to performance.
  • Repeated insults or put downs of the target.
  • Repeated threats to remove or restrict opportunities or privileges.
  • Threats of (and actual) physical violence.
  • Unwarranted yelling and screaming directed at the target.
  • There is no shortage of idiots screaming and swearing at referees.
  • Minor hockey officials are a hybrid of volunteer or low-paid near-volunteer members of the community who come out because they love the game or love kids. As well, a lot of the referees are new to refereeing and range from the age of twelve years old and up. They are learning confidence and the abuse that they receive in doing the best job that they can has many of them walking away from the rink and not coming back because they have taken too much abuse from parents. This is seen in many of the sporting events for our children.

There is a high probability on most teams that one or more of the lesser skilled players will be bullied or teased by a more skilled teammate.  Good coaches are alert to the possibility of bullying and proactively seek ways to reduce it.

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