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#StandUp: What to Do If You’re Being Bullied
Bullying. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot, especially in team sports. But what does it really mean and how can it impact your team on and off the field?
I define bullying as any offensive language or behavior that is intended to harm another individual. It can take many forms, but some common ways it may show up in lacrosse include:
- Harassing a teammate when they mess up during a game
- Refusing to cheer on a teammate or include them in social outings
- Using harsh words to intimidate an opposing player
- Being singled out by a referee or coach
Victims are often hesitant to speak out and witnesses fear getting involved. But in order to create the strongest team possible, it’s important that we keep an open dialogue. Every athlete deserves a healthy, supportive environment where they’re treated with respect.
Fighting back against bullying starts with you and me. Here’s what you can do to foster a positive, uplifting team culture.
Push for Inclusion
The best, most in-sync teams are ones with solid relationships off the field. But you have to be careful not to form cliques. It’s easy to become a tight-knit circle when you’ve been playing together for years. When a new player joins the team, she might feel left out or isolated. Be the person to add them to the group chat. You may not be best friends with every girl on the team, but it’s crucial that everyone feel welcome.
Many people don’t want to be the one to speak up when they see bullying. It’s uncomfortable or even embarrassing when you think you’ll be labeled a ‘tattletale.’ Or perhaps you’re even worried that you’ll become a victim too. But it’s every player’s responsibility to make the team the best it can be. Be the person who has the courage to take a stand against bullying. If you hear harassment in the locker room, or know someone shared an embarrassing photo of a teammate online, call it out and take it to the coach. You’ll be the one who makes your team stronger.
Control the Controllables
Bullying should never be a part of your playing strategy — the best way to demonstrate your strength to an opponent is to practice and perform at the highest level. If an opposing player tries to trash talk you on the field, don’t take their bait. Try to keep your head in the game. After all, bullies strive to get a rise out of you. You can’t control every situation — but you can control your reaction. If you stand strong, they’ll likely back down. The only interactions you should have with the opposing team are helping them up when they fall down, and telling them something they did well.
However, if someone uses a racist or sexist slur to intimidate you, bring it up to your coach in real time. It’s important those comments are not tolerated.
Leave Technology on the Sidelines
Unfortunately, texting and social media make it even easier to talk about someone behind their back, or bully them from the safety of your cell phone. Put your phone away during games and at practice. Maybe one of your teammates is bad-mouthing another player in a group chat — it may be tempting to go along with it just to fit in. Rise above that. Off the field, you can use your phone to keep in touch with your teammates and build positive relationships instead of succumbing to bullying.
Being a great player and teammate doesn’t just depend on your athletic ability. Knowing how to spot signs of bullying and having the courage to stop it makes you a true asset on and off the field.