How Bully Coaches Affect A Young Athletes Mental Game

Growing up, I loved basketball so much that I even put it as my priority before school, and worked so hard to join my school’s basketball team.

I have joined my first division A team at the age of 14. But little did I know, that this team was my joy and my nightmare at the same time. I got bullied from teammates whom I loved and cared for, yet I got used for their personal achievements, the coach didn’t like me for some reason because of my teammates, though when I did my try outs he couldn’t believe when I could join them.
This experience growing up, left me a scar and it followed me on my other team transitions though I didn’t get bullied afterwards but the fear and doubts were highly there.

Today, I want to talk about bullying and its affect that it has on us as athletes growing up, which is the most important years of our lives in order to develop, to learn and grow.

”Bullying” is a big word, that many of us face growing up, either at school, teammates, coaches, and unfortunately the consequences of bullying are major.

As professionals and members of the Sports Community, it is our responsibility to protect youth sports experience and the universal privileges of participating in youth sports.

Youth coaches are critical to kids’ sport experiences. They can influence whether young athletes enjoy sports and want to continue playing. Some coaches can get kids excited about sports, while other coaches may discourage kids or take the fun out of the game. A good coach can keep kids’ interest in sports alive. Bullied kids think there is something the matter with them. This deflates them and creates a lack of comfort and security in sports.

It is possible that young athletes are afraid to talk about being bullied by coaches. Often, young athletes’ first reaction to being treated this way is shame. They feel as if they somehow caused the coach to treat them badly. Bullying can hurt an athlete’s confidence in and out of sports. When athletes are being bullied, and singled out by coaches they begin to have doubts about their ability to perform which cause them to question their role in sports.

Athletes who are bullied, experience difficulty focusing on what they should focus on. They sometimes obsess on the bully that the kids are also afraid. They think ”Should I shoot the ball?Should I pass the ball? Should I get rid of the ball fast?” for example. They focus on the wrong things during sports because they are preoccupied with gaining the coaches’ approval, often, they are afraid of how the coach will react if they make the wrong decision.

Fear doesn’t enhance an athlete’s sports experience, and it’s not a good motivator although some coaches try to rely on it. Fear is a mental game killer. To really benefit and enjoy sports, young athletes need to feel confident and safe. That’s where the parents come in.

You as parents and coaches, can do a lot to help kids who are bullied by their coaches. Parents need to learn how to identify the characteristics a bully coach, and how to stand up to coaches who put their child athletes’ confidence, focus, self-esteem, motivation, and enjoyment of sports at risk.

  • 40-50% of athletes have experienced anything from mild harassment to severe abuse in their sport of choice
  • 4% of young athletes reported that a coach had hit, kicked, or slapped them
  • 8% of coaches acknowledged encouraging athletes to hurt opponents, 33% yelled at players for making mistakes and 20% made fun of a team member with limited skills
  • Athletes are responsible for more sexual harassment of their peers than coaches
  • Abuse occurs in all sports

Please know, that if you think your kids are being bullied by coaches or teammates, you can reach to any sports psychologist near your area to share the athlete’s experience and to be open for discussion to allow parents, athletes, coaches, students the opportunity to face any topic and to hold accountable.

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