By: Play by the Rules

“Parents or teachers should be the ones to deal with bullying incidents”, “It’s a natural and normal part of sport”, “Let them sort it out themselves”.

If you agree with any of these statements then it’s time to leave the stands, because you’ve got it very wrong when it comes to bullying.

Sport is an emotional, competitive arena which is not immune from acts of bullying; in fact it often provides an environment which can lend itself to this type of behaviour. Examples of bullying in sport may include:

  • a parent telling their child they are “hopeless”bullying
  •  players sending abusive text messages, emails to another player or via social networking sites (such as Facebook or Twitter)
  • spectators verbally abusing opposition players
  • an athlete calling a referee names.
For young people in particular, being the victim of bullying is a very serious issue and can cause them to feel embarrassed, humiliated and intimidated. It can also affect a person’s physical and mental health, school life and athletic performance.

As members of the community and as coaches, officials, parents, spectators and club administrators, we have a moral, and sometimes even a legal, responsibility to be more than just spectators.

Look for signs of bullying

Some incidents of bullying may be reported by a parent, coach or official, but most of the time bullying happens under adults’ radar. So, what signs should we look for?

A person being bullied may:

  • find excuses for not wanting to attend training or games
  • be the last one picked for team or group activities
  • have unexplained bruises or other injuries
  • become uncharacteristically nervous, worried, shy or withdrawn.

What to do about it

  • Always take bullying matters seriously. Listen and discuss the options for dealing with the situation.
  • Determine a course of action and keep accurate and up-to-date documentation.
  • Talk to the young person’s parents and/or carers and consider enlisting the help of his or her school. The bullying may also be occurring there and schools often have very effective anti-bullying programs.
  • Follow your sports Member Protection Policy. It should detail a course of action and any disciplinary procedures against bullies.
  • Some forms of bullying constitute assault, harassment or discrimination and may be illegal – seek the advice of your state and national bodies or Play by the Rules. If the bullying involves threats of violence, abuse or blackmail, you may need to report the incident to the police.
Strategies to prevent bullying

Take a proactive approach to bullying and your club will be a safe, secure and fun place for everyone.

*Play by the Rules is a unique collaboration between the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission, all state and territory departments of sport and recreation, all state and territory anti-discrimination and human rights agencies, the NSW Commission for Children and Young People and the Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association (ANZSLA). These partners promote Play by the Rules through their networks, along with their own child safety, anti-discrimination and inclusion programs.

Play by the Rules provides information, resources, tools and free online training to increase the capacity and capability of administrators, coaches, officials, players and spectators to assist them in preventing and dealing with discrimination, harassment and child safety issues in sport.

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