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Bullying is defined as deliberate hostile behavior marked by an imbalance of power, intent to harm and repetition - or the threat of repetition. Severe bullying can lead to a feelings of terror on the part of the person being bullied.

Hazing is legally defined as an intentional knowing, or reckless act by a person acting alone or acting with others, that is directed against an individual and that the person knew, or should have known, endangers the physical health or safety of the individual and that is done for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, participating in or maintaining membership in any organization. Hazing is against the law in Michigan and many other states.

Bullying, and other disrespectful behavior, is a growing concern in sports. Parents, players and coaches can equip themselves with awareness and knowledge so that every athlete can walk away from practice and competition with a positive self-image.

Bullying before, during or after sports may take many forms. Sports related bullying may include:

  • unwarranted yelling and screaming directed at the target
  • continually criticizing the target's abilities
  • blaming the target for mistakes
  • making unreasonable demands related to performance
  • repeated insults or put downs of the target
  • repeated threats to remove or restrict opportunities or privileges
  • denying or discounting the target's accomplishments
  • threats of, and actual, physical violence
  • emails or instant messages containing insults or threats

What Parents Can Do

  • Recognize that you are a role model to your child, other players and parents. Set a good example and reinforce positive behavior when you see it.
  • Maintain an open and honest communication with your child and the coach. Discuss acceptable boundaries of behavior to ensure any concerns are addressed.
  • Ensure a pre-season meeting is held with parents, athletes, coaches and board members to discuss acceptable boundaries of behavior for everyone involved.
  • Try to attend practices or games whenever possible. If private practices are held, ask for an explanation.
  • If you observe bullying, bring the matter to the attention of the coach, other parents or league officials.

What Players Can Do

  • Trust your instincts. If someone's behavior is making you feel uncomfortable or threatened, don't ignore it. You have the right to be treated respectfully. There is something that can be done.
  • Talk to someone you trust - a parent, friend, coach, manager or another player. Remember to keep speaking up until someone helps you.
  • Call Beaumont's 24-hour bullying hotline (855-876-6253) for advice if you or a friend are worried, felling depressed or otherwise need help.
  • Stay calm. Bullies desire a reaction, so don't give them one.
  • Project self-confidence.
  • Don't reply to messages. If you are receiving threatening text messages or emails, don't reply, but don't delete them. The proper authorities can use these messages to help you.
  • Understand what bullying is and the negative impact it can have on you and those around you. If you stand around while bullying happens, you are part of the problem instead of the solution.
  • Never fight a bully. If you witness bullying, you can speak up, walk away and get help to help the target, but never engage in a fight (unless in self defense).

What Coaches Can Do

  • Accept your obligation to ensure a safe and respectful sports environment by not engaging in, allowing, condoning or ignoring behavior that constitutes, or could be perceived as, bullying.
  • Recognize that you are a role model to the players and parents. Set a good example and reinforce positive behavior when you see it.
  • Establish open and honest communication between all parties involved, including parents, players, managers and volunteers.
  • Be prepared to look critically at your own behavior. Accept feedback without being defensive.
  • Don't view screening procedures, policy or training as a threat to your character, but as an opportunity to learn and to work toward a safer and healthier sporting environment for everyone.
Information adapted from Alberta's Cross-Ministry for the Prevention of Bullying