Winning the battle against bullying
Bree King combined common sense with tips she learned through NYSCA’s free Bullying Prevention training program to help a youngster contemplating suicide. She shares her chilling story of that fateful day that – thankfully – includes a happy ending.
By Linda Alberts
You are a loser. Why are you so stupid? You should have never been born.
These are the kinds of horrific words children being bullied hear every day – and oftentimes even worse than that – from classmates, teammates or other kids in their neighborhood.
Unlike a one-time incident of being teased or picked on, bullying is a long-term, ongoing event of repeated harassment, threats and demeaning putdowns that typically seem never-ending to the child being targeted.
And after these relentless verbal, and even physical, attacks children who are bullied often feel like they have limited options for dealing with the situation.
One of those options is to ask for help from a trusted adult, and from there hopefully the adult will know how to handle the situation.
This is what Bree King experienced first-hand after her daughter’s friend confided in King about her thoughts of committing suicide after dealing with years of being bullied and tormented at the hands of classmates.
As a youth sports coach and parent in Dallas, Texas, it pained King to see a young child willing to take such heart-wrenching measures to end the bullying.
“I talked this sweet child off of that ‘mental’ ledge long enough to get her on the school bus so that I could call the school and alert them,” King said. “They pulled her as soon as she got off the bus to talk to her.”
TRAINING MAKES A DIFFERENCE
King reached out to the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) to share her incredible story, crediting some of her ability to handle the situation to the information she received from the free bullying prevention training offered through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, a program of NAYS.
“The bullying training gave me some tips to use, along with the common sense in my head,” she said. “I did my best to talk this young lady down as best I could and buy time to get her some help.”
The frequency of childhood bullying is shocking: One in seven children in grades K-12 is a victim of bullying, or is a bully themselves.
“I think bullying is prevalent during childhood because kids are trying to find out who they are, and unfortunately, there are kids that feel that in order to be special and gain respect from those around them, they have to hurt and degrade others,” King said.
When you factor in the competitive nature of athletics with a child’s misdirected efforts to prove their worth to a coach or team, it can lead to disastrous results in a sports environment.
“Bullying is much more prevalent in environments where adults condone and encourage this type of behavior in kids because they participate in bullying antics themselves,” King said. “I have seen coaches bully players, referees and parents alike and they don’t understand why it is wrong. Kids mimic what they see around them. If the coach does not stop the child, they are, in essence, condoning these actions and the bullying behavior will continue.”
PROTECTING CHILDREN TOP PRIORITY
As an executive director and head coach of the Lady Panthers Girls Basketball Association in Dallas, King wants her participants and their parents to know that the safety of the children is the priority. To help ensure this, King is an NYSCA member where she has received training in coaching youth sports, as well as the additional free trainings available for bullying prevention and concussion prevention.
“Common sense plays a role, but we also live in a society where being formally trained carries so much more weight,” she said. “When I tell potential parents signing up their children for our program that I have attained these specific trainings, I see the relief come across their faces. They want to be sure that their child is safe while in my care.”
NAYS developed the bullying prevention training to give parents and coaches the information they need to help prevent bullying in youth sports, as well as how to navigate bullying situations that do emerge.
“I recommend bullying prevention training to other coaches because it is necessary,” King said. “Any coach should want to have training on topics that can help ensure that their program is operating and functioning as a safe environment where kids can compete and have fun without fear of harm.”
Bullying in sports can be overlooked as kids just being kids, or inappropriately categorized as part of the game strategy, but it’s not a topic to be taken lightly.
Bullying can take on a variety of forms in sports. Here are some examples to watch out for:
- The child doing the bullying may target a teammate they are jealous of because their teammate gets praise and attention from the coach or they perceive them to be a better player.
- A child may bully a team member that doesn’t do well in the sport because they see them as an easy target to exert power over.
- Intimidating, coercing or hazing new team members to prove they belong on the team.
- Singling out a teammate by turning other team members against them by using gossip or encouraging the other team members to gang up on the child.
- Intimidating the most promising players in order to eliminate the competition for the best positions and the limelight.
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Sara Slattery – NCAA champion, former collegiate cross country coach, and co-author of HOW SHE DID IT – encourages parents of young athletes to stress multiple sports over specializing to build athleticism and lay the foundation for greater success