How to Talk to Your Soccer Players About Bullying
One of the biggest potential problems in youth sports is bullying. It can ruin the morale of the team, and result in players having a negative experience. In some situations, bullied players may even decide to quit the sport.
The best way to stop bullying is through communication. Young players look to adults for guidance, and talking about bullying with your soccer team is key in preventing and eliminating any bullying that does occur. Here are five ways to talk to your soccer players about bullying:
- Set a Standard for Player Behavior
Tell your players at the beginning of the season that they’re expected to meet certain standards in terms of respect for others. This gives them a clear goal and keeps them on the right path. If players aren’t instructed on how to behave, they’re more likely to act out and bully each other.
It’s important that you and other adults involved with the team hold yourselves to the same standards. Kids mimic what they see adults do. Lead by example.
- Encourage Comradery Among Teammates
Let your players know that part of being a team is working together, and that they will be much more successful if they get along. Explain to them that negative and bullying behaviors, such as belittling each other, goes against the team spirit. Creating a tight bond between teammates is a great way to prevent bullying.
- Establish Consequences for Bullying
Don’t just tell players what you expect from them. Explain the consequences of not meeting those expectations, otherwise they may not take you seriously.
One of the most effective consequences for bullying is loss of playtime. If your players know that bullying means they won’t play the next game, they’re less likely to do so. If they do it anyway, spending the next game on the bench significantly reduces the odds of them bullying anyone again.
- When Players Bully, Ask Them Questions
There’s always an underlying reason why a player chooses to bully someone. Maybe that player is jealous, or feels like they have to demean teammates to get ahead. Maybe that player is acting out because they aren’t getting much attention.
When you notice bullying, take that player aside and talk to them. Ask them why they’re acting that way. Sometimes, the attention from an adult is just what that player needs. By hearing the player’s reasoning, you can also help them understand why bullying isn’t the right way to get what they want.
- Provide Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is essential for youth soccer players. Not only does it boost their confidence, but it also creates a positive atmosphere on the team, making bullying less likely.
It’s particularly important to use positive reinforcement with players who have been the victims of bullying. Players who get bullied often end up not having fun anymore. A positive comment from an adult can be just the boost that player needs to enjoy soccer practice again.