No. 806
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There is no place in all of society where a bully should be tolerated. This is especially true in athletics where, in most cases, a dominant adult is coaching young people and children.
Recently, a friend sent me an article written by Dr. John Schinnerer that began: “My 10-year-old son was bullied recently. He was told that he was an ‘embarrassment’. He was told to ‘shut up’.
“He was yelled at and scolded with a tone of voice tinged with disgust and disdain. He was told that he would be punished for mistakes he or his peers made in the future. Surprisingly, this did not happen at school. The bully wasn’t even a peer of his. The bully was his swim coach, a young lady of perhaps 26 years of age. She was desperately trying to motivate her swimmers to swim fast in the big meet the next day. And this was her attempt at motivation.
“Later, in speaking with the lady in charge of the coaches on this swim team, it quickly became apparent that this type of ‘incentive’ was not only OK with her, it was actually encouraged. She said that 9- and 10-year-old boys were ‘squirrelly’ and ‘needed to be taken down a notch.’ She was in full support of her coaches yelling at, embarrassing and insulting young children to motivate them to swim faster. ‘That’s just the way swimming is,’ she said. This parent went on to say, ‘If I had not spent 12 years of my childhood swimming competitively, I may have believed her. We parted company’.”
Now, I will stop here because you have the picture. Apparently, according to Dr. Schinnerer, this type of bullying or abuse takes place far too often in various sports all across the nation, and it should not be tolerated.
Again, the question, “Is your child’s coach a bully?” To answer this question, you must first know what bullying behavior looks and feels like. Here is the definition: “Bullying is aggressive behavior that occurs repeatedly over time in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power or strength.” Bullying can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, social manipulation and attacks on property. Physical violence is not usually a component of a coaching relationship. Should this happen, and a coach is violent with an athlete, it vital to call the authorities.
As I thought about this, I remember getting an e-mail from the “Master Motivator”, former Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown, who is second only to the late Adolph Rupp in wins in the Southeast Conference. The e-mail contained a letter to his former player Shaquille O’Neal after his first year in the NBA. Here is some of what he said to “Shaq,” and please contrast his approach with the 26-year-old swim coach I talked about earlier.
“Be a good listener. One of the most consistent qualities of those who are labeled as extraordinary athletes is they have been coachable. There have been few exceptions. Make your dignity as tall as your body. Never, ever drop it or sell it or become complimented out of it. Respect others, even the most humble, and remember that above all else, you are a member of a group called mankind.
“So, be your brother’s keeper. Lift him up when he has fallen; bandage him up when he is wounded. Well, that’s my advice to you, Shaquille. You really don’t need it. You are what you are: a good man. Love you, Coach Brown.”
From my perspective, that is the way to motivate players and we should never tolerate bullying.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)

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