Bullying is a repeated, intentional behavior meant to cause physical, emotional, or psychological harm to another individual.
What is bullying among teens
What does bullying look like
Signs to look for in your players related to bullying
Supportive Coaching Techniques
Bullying on the field can look different from bullying in other environments
Questions to ask yourself before reporting
How to ensure your athletes feel safe and comfortable
Bullying prevention as a coach
Creating a comfortable environment
We hope you find this toolkit helpful in understanding and managing these mental health issues that could affect your young soccer player.
Note: Always consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating health problem or disease; anyone seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed professional.
Offside! A Coach's Strategy for Dealing with Bullying in Youth Soccer
Greetings, Coaches! The team at PCOM is here to help you. As the leaders of young athletes, it's our job not just to teach the skills of the game, but also to create a safe and positive environment for all. Bullying can disrupt that environment and harm your players—both the victims and the bullies themselves. So, how do you coach your way around this challenge?
Let's dive into the subtle and overt signs of bullying as it might manifest in a soccer environment, equipping you to recognize and address it.
Training day is in full swing, with players energetically going through drills and exercises. However, there's a disruption in the usual flow: Chris, always eager and committed, seems reluctant today. Instead of joining in immediately, they linger on the sidelines. Every time they approach a group, laughter erupts or hushed conversations end abruptly.
Team members talk amongst themselves:
"Did you see the group chat last night? Some of the team were really harsh on Chris."
"They made fun of Chris's mistake in the last match all over social media."
“Coach, I think Chris is being left out of some of our team activities on purpose.”
During a scrimmage, Chris's hesitations become more pronounced. They miss passes not because they didn't see them, but because they seem unsure of their place in the team. Their mistakes are met with exaggerated sighs or sarcastic comments from certain players, and the supportive camaraderie that usually defines the team is conspicuously absent around them.
The hushed whispers, the exclusionary behaviors, the pointed laughter, and sarcasm? That's bullying.
Observing a player who's lost their sense of belonging, who's constantly on edge due to peer behaviors, and whose self-confidence seems to be eroding each day? That's witnessing the impact of bullying in action.
For a coach, identifying these subtle yet damaging behaviors is imperative. The field should be a place of unity, growth, and mutual respect. Recognizing signs of bullying and addressing them head-on ensures every player feels valued, supported, and confident in their place within the team. The goal is to create an environment where talents flourish without the shadow of intimidation or exclusion.
RECOGNIZING BULLYING AMONG YOUNG ATHLETES
Bullying is not just physical intimidation. It can be verbal abuse, exclusion, or online harassment. As a coach, you need to be aware of the team's dynamics both on and off the field.
Signs of Bullying on Your Team
Avoidance: A player seems to be avoiding practice, team activities, or even specific teammates.
Drop in Performance: A noticeable decline in a player’s skill level, engagement, or enthusiasm for the game.
Visible Distress: Signs of emotional or physical distress before, during, or after team interactions.
Coaching Strategies to Counteract Bullying
Team Meetings: Make it clear from the start that bullying will not be tolerated. Outline the behavior you expect and the consequences for breaking those rules.
Encourage Open Dialogue: Let your players know they can come to you with their concerns, and assure them that they will be taken seriously.
Incorporate Team-Building: Foster a positive team culture by incorporating team-building exercises that focus on respect, trust, and cooperation.
WHEN TO ESCALATE THE SITUATION
If initial interventions don’t work, or if the bullying is severe, it may be necessary to involve parents, athletic directors/club directors, or even mental health professionals. Treat it with the same seriousness as you would a physical injury.
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING; RESPECT IS
Building a respectful and supportive team culture will not only help tackle bullying but also contribute to a more focused, motivated, and successful team.
Your role as a coach extends beyond the soccer pitch; it also involves shaping these young athletes into respectful and responsible individuals. Let's make sure everyone gets to enjoy the beautiful game without fear of bullying.