Aggressive coaches, players and even parents can be referred to as bullies. But what I find funny is that most bullies would be horrified to be called a bully.
Even funnier, for most of them, it would come as a total shock.
Everyone has been exposed to some form of bullying. Bullying at home, school and even at work.
But does it exist in soccer?
Bullying is an abuse of power by someone who is stronger physically, verbally, mentally and even socially. This abuse usually targets someone younger or someone who can’t block the bully’s mind games or cruel intentions. It usually targets someone who is regarded as mentally or physically weak.
So why does bullying exist? Why do so many youth coaches find the need to use intimidation and aggression as a means of control? Why are some kids subjected to bullying within the dynamics of their team?
Do you know the answer?
The main reason coach’s bully is because they’ve been allowed to get away with it. Over a period of time it has been condoned by players and to some extent parents.
Over the years I’ve encountered two sorts of coaching bullies. The first one, an x-player of the team had a very anti-social personality. During his playing days he would bully the younger players and this continued when he was given the chance to coach. This person, I will not disclose a name for obvious reasons, enjoyed bullying and for some strange reason expected everyone else to enjoy it as well.
The other type of bully is the arrogant, “mr know it all” and egomaniac that doesn’t even realise he is doing it and has no idea that this behaviour is unacceptable. This type of coach doesn’t know how to coach and is often frightened about the stability and safety of his coaching position.
Lets use an example for demonstration.
The coach deliberately leaves Mark out of a training drill and continues to yell at Gerry in front of the entire team. These coaches know what they are doing is wrong but don’t think they will be caught. Nor do they think it’s bullying.
Soccer bullying exists but has not been properly identified. Have you experienced bullying at soccer? If so, what have you done about it?
Players will talk about it, think about it but very rarely report it or do something about it. If your coach is a bully he needs to be put back in his place.
So what happens to the victim, the bully and the teammates?
Can this situation produce a successful soccer team?
The victim feels neglected, hurt and loses confidence. The coach feels superior, powerful and in control. The teammates no longer enjoy the game because they fear the abuse and do not want to be singled out.
So how do you stop this abuse?
Believe it or not, it’s very easy.
Gather around kids and I’ll tell you a secret.
To stop a coach bullying, players must be united. They must develop a friendship and a common language that will eliminate this behaviour and its pervasive effects. As a collective group you can warn the coach that his behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Remember this, a coach cannot coach without his team. Trust me when I tell you, the coach needs his team more than the team could ever need the coach.
The most important thing you can do as players is to acknowledge that bullying is occurring. Stick together and put a unified front.
Although times have changed dramatically since my playing days and awareness has increased, bullying isn’t going to go away. So remember to stick together like warriors and set your own rules within your gang.
Coaches are a dime a dozen, never put up with abuse!