Bullying almost always happens when other kids are present. But, many kids don’t do anything to stop it. Sometimes they feel like it’s none of their business and sometimes they just don’t want to put themselves out there and risk being ridiculed.
However, student athletes have an advantage when it comes to bullying prevention. Very often, these young athletes are respected and admired by their peers at school. As a result, they can use this influence in a positive way by demonstrating that bullying is not acceptable and it’s not cool. Here are eight ways you can empower athletes at your school to help prevent bullying.
Encourage athletes to avoid joining in. Sometimes kids will laugh at a bullying incident or participate without even thinking about how it makes the victim feel. Other times they participate because of peer pressure. Explain to young athletes that you expect them to be good role models in the school and that they should never join in the bullying.
Highlight the importance of saying something. Sometimes bullies are bullying simply to get attention. And, if they aren’t getting a positive response from the crowd because an athlete has the courage to tell them to stop, they will stop. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to say “that’s not funny” and the incident will be over. But by staying silent, athletes are unknowingly giving their support to the bully. Remind athletes to say something only if they feel safe in doing so. If the bully poses a physical threat, another option might be to find help. Even if an athlete does tell the bully to stop, encourage him to report the bullying incident to an adult so that it doesn’t happen again.
Stress the importance of speaking out against injustices. While you should acknowledge that it might be easier to ignore bullying, it’s not always the best option. Sometimes it takes a strong person to step in and help others overcome bullying. Provide perspective by asking how they would feel if they were being bulling.
Empower athletes to formulate their own ideas on how to prevent bullying. Many times kids know just what is needed to respond to bullying situations. You will be surprised at how creative they can be when given the chance. Be sure to allow enough room for your athletes to formulate plans. They will be much more likely to step into a bullying situation if they are using an idea they are comfortable with.
Encourage them to get other bystanders or athletes to stand up too. Sometimes it’s safer and more effective if a group or a team of kids confronts the bully. In fact, research shows that when peers intervene in a bullying incident, the bullying ends nearly 60% of the time. This should come naturally for some athletes because of the teamwork they have experienced on their sports teams. Usually, athletes are very good at getting people to work together.
Underscore the need to support victims. Sometimes the best way to get involved in bullying prevention is to be a friend to victims and potential victims. In fact, research shows that having at least one friend can deter bullying. Give athletes ideas on how to be a friend to kids who are targeted by bullies. This might mean walking to class together, sitting with them at lunch and inviting them to social events.
Remind them that it’s not a sign of weakness to get an adult. Kids sometimes think they can handle bullying on their own. As a result, kids often don’t report bullying. Be sure to stress to athletes that even though they are strong, they are not invincible. It’s never a sign of weakness to get an adult. Instead, it’s a display of wisdom and courage. They also can call or text for help if needed. Most tweens and teens carry cell phones these days. Equip them with some numbers they can use to report bullying while it’s happening.
Stress the importance of digital etiquette. Kids don’t always know or realize that some things are not appropriate to say online. Be sure to stress to your athletes the key aspects of digital etiquette. Also, instruct them on how to handle cyberbullying if they witness it. For instance, messages or postings can be copied and reported to an adult. What’s more, many social media sites have mechanisms for reporting abuse. Help athletes become familiar with how to report harassment and cyberbullying.