What does it mean when an athletic director of a huge college that supports an amazing and coveted softball program fires a long-standing head coach stating, “The University has lost confidence in his ability to foster a “healthy” environment.”
This just weeks after previously highly respected Dr. Larry Nassar was arrested on more than 130 counts of sexual molestation of females athletes under his care. In an NBC article published it stated that many girls “didn’t know they had been abused until AFTER he was arrested.”
These are just two very disturbing and sickening examples of people in positions of power being allowed to bully and intimidate and abuse the very CHILDREN entrusted in their care.
A parent who is disgruntled because of a coaches outrageous behavior, whether it be yelling, or cursing, or humiliating, or bullying the athletes – are quickly dubbed trouble makers. We are told to empower our daughters to speak for themselves, and yet there are many people out there in this world who bully kids into silence and make it impossible for them to feel safe speaking out. And why NOT? These kids want to play. It is their desire to play the game that makes them complacent and accepting of the behavior.
Parents are guilty of this too. We are silent, when we KNOW, we KNOW in our hearts that it is wrong.
Parents and athletes are jockeying for position and playing time in an extremely competitive market where the financial commitment is extreme and the competition is ruthless. Everyone is replaceable, and families today are constantly reminded of that. And this, this somehow makes us acceptable of behavior that would normally send us running for the hills.
And while we don’t think there is anything wrong with coaches, teachers, leaders and mentors being hard on our kids, expecting the best from our children, or taking measures to extract the deepest level of their talent out of them – the reality is that there is also a very thin line on which ‘SOME” (notice we said some as we feel strongly that this a minority) tread.
Where is the line between bullying and coaching?
And most importantly, do our daughters know the difference?
Sure, somewhere inside of them – in the places they don’t talk about – they can FEEL the difference between being coached up, and respected as athletes and people and being bullied….but still so many young athletes today are now confused. On one hand, we tell them to ignore it, to toughen up, to get over it. We water it down, see their pain as a weakness or personality flaw rather than one that is warranted and real. And on the other, we want them to stand up for their souls.
Is the coach being hard on me, or is he/she bullying me?
They wonder if they are too soft, or just not good enough and don’t deserve any better treatment than they are getting. They don’t want to disappoint their parents, or be embarrassed in front of teammates so they attempt to navigate the relationship on their own.
Is humiliation in front of peers, physical punishment, the utilization of their power to make decisions that detriment one athlete over another just part of the ‘training,’ or does some of it qualify as emotional abuse?
This is not about our kids being too sensitive. This is not about our children being cry babies and simply being accustomed to getting anything they want. This is not about parents that are troublesome and willing to go to great lengths to catapult their child into ‘success’ in the arena of athletic competition.
This is about the emotional well-being of our kids.
Here at Softball Is For Girls, we field hundreds of questions per month from upset parents who feel that perhaps, maybe, their daughter was mistreated. They want some anonymous validation for feeling the way they do. And they get ostracized for voicing their opinion, or asking the question.
But the reality is that EACH OF US, ALL OF OUR KIDS, know what is right and wrong by the WAY IT FEELS!
If you are ASKING the question, if you are concerned that your kid is being emotionally stripped of value and self-confidence by a mentor or coach in their lives, the reality is that they probably ARE. If you see your child fading into a dark place, having difficulty with a relationship with a coach, losing interest and passion in the game that they love and have worked hard to play, chances are the relationship between coaches and players is NOT HEALTHY.
And you shouldn’t be afraid to remove your child from the situation. After all, that is why they have us as parents. And yet its scary. If you say something you know your child will be benched, or worse further humiliated and you get to wear the label of a trouble maker. Teach her to speak for herself! That;s what they tell us. But the reality is if a child is feeling victimized by an adult authority figure in their life, they will likely need a hell of a lot of guidance and assistance to confront the situation appropriately… And you know what—the bully counts on JUST THIS!
Sure…we believe in the SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP mentality. But we also believe that there is an undefined line here that we need to be mindful of.
We believe that beneath every jersey lies a soul. And we believe that each of these souls thrives and grows with different amounts and types of water and love.
Teams of individual players cannot be painted with the same brush, and worthy coaches, those that are truly interested and invested in the well-being and success of their players KNOW THIS. They find a way to help each child reach deep down inside themselves to improve, that doesn’t involve intimidation or humiliation, threats or disrespect.
These coaches do not belittle, shame, take advantage of their perceived power over a child, humiliate, willfully hurt or emotionally brow beat a child. The coaches who are truly called to coach, they care about how a player FEELS on the inside.
This absolutely doesn’t mean they wont push them beyond their comfort point, but they certainly wont take advantage of their emotional or mental weakness to damage them further.
“Bullying behaviors from coaches include intimidation (using yelling and threats to scare into obedience), insulting (name calling to demean appearance, toughness, or worth), ridicule (making fun of bad play or lack of skill), humiliation (singling out a player for public embarrassment or blame), and benching (refusing to let a student play.)
The impact of these kinds of actions on adolescent age players can be performance anxiety about making mistakes, hesitant play because of unsure decision-making, loss of confidence one’s capacity to perform, believing mistreatment is deserved, losing enjoyment of the sport one once enjoyed, even quitting the sport to avoid any coaching at all.”
The baffling thing is that many of the very successful programs have a ton of support, and yet behind the bleachers – parents are venting and complaining about behavior they feel is negative and abnormal and unhealthy.
Why do we wait so long to call these people out?
Have you noticed that as soon as a coach is let go, or a person in power is removed from the situation, people come out of the woodwork sighing with relief, and telling their stories?
Why do we wait so long? Is it simply because we are so determined for our children to succeed that we put up with this kind of small-minded, demeaning, and abusive behavior?
And the big question is, do our daughters know the difference? Do they know the difference between a personality conflict and disrespectful treatment. Do they know the different between simply taking something personal versus being maliciously manipulated by an adult? Look we don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to talk about it. But we are gonna talk about it, and think about it.
Because our girls deserve to know the difference between being punished, and being pushed. Between being empowered and powerless.