Yes yes, I know bullying happens in any age group, in any place of work, play etc – but I don’t believe that it makes it right or something that we should just accept.
Kids play sport for all different reasons – some because they really do love it, some because a friend is, some just because their parents want them to and there are some who just do it for fun – in any age group. I also a firm believer in it being perfectly ok, to do it just for fun – even if the child is not very good at it.
Before going into details – I think it is important to point out that whilst most age managers and coaches in any sport are just volunteers, I don’t believe that is an excuse for not dealing with social issues within the group they work with. As a Cub Scout leader, I am a volunteer, but I am bound to carry out the duties necessary and within the law of Scouting regardless of the effort and time that it takes, which is quite right – so why is the same not applied in sport. They are just volunteers but in my mind is no excuse for doing the bare minimum and doing a bad job of it.
So here is an example:
A youngster – lets call him JJ joins a sport because it sounds like fun and his brother has fun in it, but there is a co-hort of “not very nice” kids in the group – the kind where the parents of the throw their arms up in the air and shrug or pretend their little darling wouldn’t do anything. On a weekly basis, JJ is wacked and pushed and when he keeps telling the age manager what is going on – the information is met with a shrug. So end of season, whilst waiting for things to start one Saturday one of the bully’s slaps JJ with a cap in his face – JJ has had enough so runs off in tears. JJ’s parents tell JJ to ignore the bully and that JJ must learn to be tougher. But this is where I struggle – why is the victim being told to toughen up – isn’t that just saying it is ok to behave like a bully. When JJ went back to join the group, JJ was mocked for having cried.
JJ’s parent spoke to the age manager who happened to look at the parent like they were an alien – and here lies the problem – age manager is a volunteer and obviously does not see management of the group as part of his duty.
This sort of behaviour has to be dealt with, same stuff happens at school and usually with the same response – for the victim to toughen up – just because bullying happens in every day life – doesn’t mean it is ok and doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and nip it in the bud. I think it is time that we lifted the standard expected, just being a volunteer does not mean you don’t have to carry out the job your are doing to the expected standards.