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Ban the Bullies

By Minnesota Hockey, 09/17/13, 11:30AM CDT

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Remember last season when your child was so excited about playing hockey that you were frequently visiting the local outdoor rink for a quick pick-up game before bed time.  As summer winded down over the past month, you could feel the anticipation building for this coming season.  There’s just one problem. Now that hockey has actually started, your child seems to be lacking that enthusiasm.

What is wrong?  It could be your child has run into a bully.

Although one of the strengths of hockey in Minnesota is the opportunity for kids to play with their friends, it isn’t completely immune to bullying. The start of each season can mean a new level and unfamiliar teammates, which can present windows of time where bullying may be more common.

If you automatically shrug off the word bullying as part of being a kid, maybe it is time to rethink your definition of bullying.  According to the USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey SafeSport Policy, bullying is the intentional, persistent or repeated pattern of physical and non-physical behaviors that are intended to cause fear, humiliation, or physical harm in an attempt to socially exclude, diminish, or isolate another person. Now, imagine a scenario where your child is on the wrong end of this and how it would impact his or her youth hockey experience.

“They really take it personally, straight to heart,” says Bullying Prevention Specialist, Karen Dahl, on how bullying can impact kids. “Their self-esteem is hurt. They feel like no one cares that they’re being made fun of.”

When bullying isn’t addressed, it can have long-term negative impacts in many areas of kids’ lives.  Research has linked being bullied to depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades and in the worst case scenario, suicide.  Kids that bully others have been shown to run into more serious issues ranging from frequent fights and poor grades to problems with vandalism, drugs and firearms.

 Parents, coaches and administrators need to work together to prevent and resolve any bullying issues taking place. Minnesota Hockey and USA Hockey have taken the first step by providing our community associations with a bullying policy as a part of the SafeSport program.

Dahl strongly believes the next step, which may be the most important is, “that communication piece with the coach and the parents. Give the parents a copy [of the bullying policy]. We’re serious about this. We’re going to have clean fun. We’re not going to tolerate bullies getting this kind of attention. If we see it, we’re going to address it.”

OLWEUS, which is one of top bullying prevention programs in the nation, emphasizes that creating a non-bullying climate is a major step in bullying prevention.  Communicating the policies to parents and coaches is a great way to start, but there needs to be more to it.  Another important component is to intervene consistently and appropriately with some sort of consequences when bullying does take place.

“Step in and call it,” says Dahl to coaches on the best way to interfere with bullying. “Just say I’ve been observing this and what I see happening looks like bullying. I would talk to the student that’s the bully separately and meet with the kid being bullied as well.”

“They need to know that people are watching them and they’re not going to get away with it,” states Dahl, who is currently the training manager for OLWEUS programs in Minnesota.  “The extreme measure would be the kid would not be able to play anymore.  That will stop it because kids want to play.”

Parents can also play a role in preventing bullying.  They can volunteer to provide supervision in hot spots, where bullying is the most likely to take place. One of the most common hot spots is locker rooms so volunteering to be a locker room monitor is a great way for parents to take an active role in bullying prevention.

“As a coach, if you’re aware where the hot spots are you can post more parents or some of your assistants to prevent it from happening,” says Dahl.  “That is a huge step. Just to have that help around you watching the kids, you can really stop and prevent a lot of it.”

Prevention is key but just as important is how parents and coaches handle scenarios when a child has been bullied. Remember kids take bullying very personally and are often afraid of telling someone that they are being bullied. 

“The kid does not need to be ashamed of telling someone they are being bullied,” says Dahl. “Kids need to get that off their chest. That support is just very, very important so that the situation doesn’t escalate out of control.”

And don’t forget that just because a kid is acting like a bully, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a bad kid.  Many times kids act that way merely to attract attention.

“A lot of kids that are bullies actually have some really good skills and good qualities,” says Dahl. “They just need to be directed. If you see someone acting up and wanting that negative attention, get them involved in something else. Maybe, something helpful on the team.”

Every season, parents, coaches and administrators make the difference in our young athletes’ hockey experiences. As we enter the season, we ask the volunteers in our community associations to continue to address issues like bullying that can sap the fun out of the greatest game in the world.

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Remember last season when your child was so excited about playing hockey that you were frequently visiting the local outdoor rink for a quick pick-up game before bed time.  As summer winded down over the past month, you could feel the anticipation building for this coming season.  There’s just one problem. Now that hockey has actually started, your child seems to be lacking that enthusiasm.

What is wrong?  It could be your child has run into a bully.

Although one of the strengths of hockey in Minnesota is the opportunity for kids to play with their friends, it isn’t completely immune to bullying. The start of each season can mean a new level and unfamiliar teammates, which can present windows of time where bullying may be more common.

If you automatically shrug off the word bullying as part of being a kid, maybe it is time to rethink your definition of bullying.  According to the USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey SafeSport Policy, bullying is the intentional, persistent or repeated pattern of physical and non-physical behaviors that are intended to cause fear, humiliation, or physical harm in an attempt to socially exclude, diminish, or isolate another person. Now, imagine a scenario where your child is on the wrong end of this and how it would impact his or her youth hockey experience.

“They really take it personally, straight to heart,” says Bullying Prevention Specialist, Karen Dahl, on how bullying can impact kids. “Their self-esteem is hurt. They feel like no one cares that they’re being made fun of.”

When bullying isn’t addressed, it can have long-term negative impacts in many areas of kids’ lives.  Research has linked being bullied to depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades and in the worst case scenario, suicide.  Kids that bully others have been shown to run into more serious issues ranging from frequent fights and poor grades to problems with vandalism, drugs and firearms.

 Parents, coaches and administrators need to work together to prevent and resolve any bullying issues taking place. Minnesota Hockey and USA Hockey have taken the first step by providing our community associations with a bullying policy as a part of the SafeSport program.

Dahl strongly believes the next step, which may be the most important is, “that communication piece with the coach and the parents. Give the parents a copy [of the bullying policy]. We’re serious about this. We’re going to have clean fun. We’re not going to tolerate bullies getting this kind of attention. If we see it, we’re going to address it.”

OLWEUS, which is one of top bullying prevention programs in the nation, emphasizes that creating a non-bullying climate is a major step in bullying prevention.  Communicating the policies to parents and coaches is a great way to start, but there needs to be more to it.  Another important component is to intervene consistently and appropriately with some sort of consequences when bullying does take place.

“Step in and call it,” says Dahl to coaches on the best way to interfere with bullying. “Just say I’ve been observing this and what I see happening looks like bullying. I would talk to the student that’s the bully separately and meet with the kid being bullied as well.”

“They need to know that people are watching them and they’re not going to get away with it,” states Dahl, who is currently the training manager for OLWEUS programs in Minnesota.  “The extreme measure would be the kid would not be able to play anymore.  That will stop it because kids want to play.”

Parents can also play a role in preventing bullying.  They can volunteer to provide supervision in hot spots, where bullying is the most likely to take place. One of the most common hot spots is locker rooms so volunteering to be a locker room monitor is a great way for parents to take an active role in bullying prevention.

“As a coach, if you’re aware where the hot spots are you can post more parents or some of your assistants to prevent it from happening,” says Dahl.  “That is a huge step. Just to have that help around you watching the kids, you can really stop and prevent a lot of it.”

Prevention is key but just as important is how parents and coaches handle scenarios when a child has been bullied. Remember kids take bullying very personally and are often afraid of telling someone that they are being bullied. 

“The kid does not need to be ashamed of telling someone they are being bullied,” says Dahl. “Kids need to get that off their chest. That support is just very, very important so that the situation doesn’t escalate out of control.”

And don’t forget that just because a kid is acting like a bully, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a bad kid.  Many times kids act that way merely to attract attention.

“A lot of kids that are bullies actually have some really good skills and good qualities,” says Dahl. “They just need to be directed. If you see someone acting up and wanting that negative attention, get them involved in something else. Maybe, something helpful on the team.”

Every season, parents, coaches and administrators make the difference in our young athletes’ hockey experiences. As we enter the season, we ask the volunteers in our community associations to continue to address issues like bullying that can sap the fun out of the greatest game in the world.

Most Popular