Bullying has no place in sport (Part 1)

Bullying Awareness Week in Canada

November 17-23 is Bullying Awareness Week in Canada. Bullying has become such an important health and social issue in our country that we now need a dedicated national awareness week. Sadly, this means we are not doing enough in Canada to combat bullying and to prevent the harm it causes.

Bullying can occur wherever children come together to live, learn or play. Bullying can and does happen in sport. It can happen in sport in rather insidious ways, often disguised as teambuilding. Coaches may use physical or emotional abuse and call it “an effective coaching technique” by demanding complete team loyalty through the bullying of their players. Athletes themselves can bully new members of a team or players who are perceived as different or as having less skill. Hazing – initiation activities which involve forms of harassment, abuse or humiliation – is an extreme expression of bullying in sport. And again, hazing often gets defended as “teambuilding” and “player bonding.” It is neither!

This is exactly why we support the claim that the positive benefits of sport come not just from any sport experience, but from a “good” sport experience. And, that a “good” sport experience is one that is driven by the True Sport Principles: Go For It, Respect Others, Keep It Fun, Include Everyone, Play Fair, Give Back, and Stay Healthy. When these principles are present in the sport experience – in the right balance and proportion, never expensing one principle in the name of another – bullying will have no place left to stand.

In tomorrow’s blog post, I’ll share more of my thoughts on this topic and I encourage you to share yours in the comments section below.