Leadership vs. Bullying: When “star” players demoralize others on the team

Backyard Sports Timeout

Backyard Sports Timeout – Where our coaches field parents’ questions about Team Sports and offer ways to make it the Fun, Enriching Experience it’s supposed to be

Q: My son has been coming home upset after practice and games because one of the “star” players has been chiding him about not keeping up, missing shots, etc. What do you  do about over confident players who display arrogance to the point where it may be viewed as bullying by other children?

A: This is the perfect opportunity for children to learn about citizenship and peer relationships. If we’re going to teach kids how to pitch, hit and run and shoot basketballs, they have to learn the support dynamic of good sportsmanship. Being part of a team is supporting our peers during their successful periods, but more importantly supporting our peers when they fall short.

It’s easy to train kids to do all the critical developmental exercises, but unless we’re going to teach kids all the other elements about interacting with each other, playing fair and how to support their teammates, we’re not doing our job as parents and coaches.

I think a lot bullying in sportsof coaches are tuned into recognizing and teaching these types of lessons. An expression I love to use is, “coaching off the ball.” Not just looking at the ball, where the ball is, and what the score is, but seeing what’s going on all around a player.

The good coaches will seize opportunities like this when they arise. When they see another child on a team degrading another individual, they use the incident as an opportunity to teach, rather than calling somebody out.

Ultimately, we want our kids to advocate for themselves, so if a child is in a situation where he is being compromised, rather than turning to his parent to go fix it for him, this is a great opportunity for the child to speak to the coach in charge. This is how we teach kids to self-regulate and advocate.

Sports creates those unscripted moments, which reveal early challenges in life. It’s on the court or field that we can practice finding the response or action to a situation that is uncomfortable or unpleasant – in real time.

The Big Takeaway: For the parents of players who feel bullied, what I’m going to say will take a lot of restraint on your part because parents just want to take care of their kids and solve their problems, but my advice is to use it as a teaching moment to say to your child, “Look. It would be easy for me to fix it, but I want to teach you how to handle these difficult situations on your own. What do you think you can do to help remedy the situation?” Rather than responding with something like, “I’m going to go speak with the child’s mother,” why not encourage and nurture these problem-solving skills in your child to come up with their own solution to the problem?

I’m not advocating an eye for eye strategy where the bully gets bullied. Instead, the child can simply talk to the coach and by making it their choice, they will feel much more empowered. This important life skill will carry over to the playground, school, and even their career.

Backyard Sports provides weekend and after school sports instruction and game play for boys and girls ages 4-16 years old. Our programs are designed for EVERY child who desires a positive and healthy sports experience. #CompetitiveSportsDoneRight 


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