Coach bullying: More frequent than you might think

Photo credit:CNN

Pediatrician Dr. Nancy Swigonski shares why bullying by athletic coaches is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. A study showed that about 45% of kids were called names or insulted by their coaches while playing. But Dr. Swigonski says some parents and physicians aren’t clear on the best way to handle this issue with the school.

In Swigonski’s research, she encountered one mom who walked in on a coach yelling at the kids on the basketball team and calling them lazy and unintelligent. Yet, when the mother confronted the coach about this, the only response she received was that parents and others needed to stay out of the gym during practice due to “safety reasons.” The mother did some research and learned that this wasn’t the coach’s first time putting players down and that the principal was aware of the issue and had already spoken with the coach about it.

Bullying doesn’t just happen among peers, and its impact on the victim can last a lifetime. To help determine if your child is a victim of coach bullying, Dr. Swigonski and her research team have put together a list of four examples to look out for as far as typical behaviors displayed by coaches who bully.

One sign is constantly attempting to justify their behavior as acceptable. Another is what Dr. Swigonski calls a backhand apology, which typically goes something like, “I am really sorry; I got a little carried away, but we really need to work on fundamentals if we are going to win.” It’s not really an apology when the coach is blaming the kids. Using extreme comparisons is also an indicator. For example, a bullying coach might say something like, “I never push them around or lay a finger on them.” Finally, escalating the situation or problem is usually a telltale sign. This includes the coach saying something like, “If you don’t like the way I do things, you can quit the team.”

As Dr. Swigonski writes, “Such behavior is unacceptable, and coaches should face consequences for not only physical but also verbal misconduct, including demeaning, name-calling and insulting young athletes.”

CNN, 1/13/14

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