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February 15, 2017
Bullying in Youth Sports
Sometimes the competitive nature of sports can bring out a negative side in players.  When this happens small actions or words can escalate into verbal or even physical abuse. 
Bullying is just as common on the field as it is on the playground.  Bullying can come from a child’s own teammates or players on competing teams. There are many forms of bullying in youth sports and it is crucial that parents, coaches and players are on the lookout for bullying so that it can be stopped immediately.
Bullying often starts as simple name calling or small pranks, but can quickly escalate to more severe taunting and even physical injury.  It can begin with one individual and spread to other teammates who gang up on the targeted child. 
If you feel your child is the victim of bullying, you can follow these steps to help stop the situation:

1. Talk to Your Child 
If your child has brought up bullying to you, take time to ask them questions and discuss the situation. By listening to your child, you can discover who the bully is and what bullying behavior is taking place.  Ask them what actions they have taken to deal with the bully and what steps they would like to follow in order to move forward.  The more you openly discuss what is going on with your child, the more they will be prepared the next time a bullying situation occurs.

2. Discuss Resolutions 
Often when a child is bullied, they are caught off guard and don’t know how to react. Thinking of a quick resolution or way to escape the situation can be challenging.  Prepare your child for these scenarios by discussing ways to react when approached by a bully. Practice role playing with your child so that they are prepared to stand up for themselves or their teammates.  

3. Meet with the Coach 
If you find out that your child is being bullied as part of a sports team, your first thought may be to talk to the child doing the bullying or that child’s parents.  This approach can lead the parents of the bully to act defensive.  Instead, talk to the coach of the team to see if they have witnessed the bullying behavior your child has described.  Once the coach is aware of the problem, they can speak to the child doing the bullying about their behavior and keep an eye out to prevent future incidents.  The coach can also act as an outside third party and inform the parents of the bully about their child’s behavior.  Speaking to the team coach helps to prevent conflicts between parents on the team.
Unfortunately, bullying and hazing have a long history in sports and can often be thought of as a tradition.  It’s very important that children learn about bullying and hazing now so that they can help combat any situations that might occur in the future. 
Before your child joins a team, teach them the importance of treating everyone with respect.  Being proactive and educating your child on the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior can be what leads your child to stand up against any bullying they encounter. At i9 Sports we teach weekly sportsmanship values including respect and teamwork. It’s important for children to learn these lessons which will help them as part of their team and in life.
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