We’ve seen coaches behaving badly. You’ve seen coaches hurl their chair across the field or shout expletives as they kick the grass when they disagree with the ref. You’ve heard them yelling at the opposing team’s coach and swearing at the umpire.
Some spectators may laugh and cheer, believing that this behavior is passion. Why would a coach react so outrageously if they didn’t care about their team and their athletes?
While it is true that there are coaches whose bad behaviors only exist in the moment and at the heat of battle, one might wonder if this misconduct extends to the way coaches treat their athletes outside of the arena. If these coaches can bully referees, umpires, and the opposing team’s coach, could they be bullying your kid outside of game day?
If you already suspect that your child’s coach may be bullying them, here are steps to follow on how to identify and handle it:
1. Look for the warning signs in your child. Are they suddenly showing disinterest in the sport they once loved? Do they seem withdrawn when they come home from practice?
2. Ask your child about their team and their coach. Do they seem reluctant to answer? Do they seem defensive when asked if there is anything wrong?
3. Because your kids may not be upfront when asked if they are having problems with their coach, you may need to rely on your parental instincts. Trust how well you know your own child.
4. Children who are experiencing emotional abuse may feel they deserve it or it is for their own good. Trust your intuition and be your own judge if your child’s coach is causing them emotional strain.
5. Teach your child about the difference between a coach who shouts to motivate vs. a coach who berates their athletes to the point that it verges on abuse.
6. Observe your child’s coach during practice. Does the coach humiliate or belittle their athletes in any way? Are they using degrading words?
7. Observe your child and his teammates. Because you are there, your child’s coach may be on their best behavior that day and not acting the way they normally would if they were not being monitored.
8. When called upon, does your child approach the coach in fear or with respect? Do they approach with confidence, eager to hear coach’s constructive criticism? If they are afraid of their coach, there may have been many instances in the past that caused your child to lose their self-esteem.
Once you’ve established that your child’s coach is a bully, on whatever scale, it is important that you not approach the coach in an aggressive manner and report the bullying to a school official.
Coaches should follow a code of conduct. Those who bully any athlete, whether it is just one child or the whole team, should face the consequences of their actions.
9. Support your child. Ask them if they want to quit. If their coach’s bullying is causing them to dislike the game they love then perhaps it is the time to take a break or move to a different league.
10. Help your child learn to love the sport again.