I wish we could walk into the gym and only have to worry about focusing on our skills, conditioning, training, and performing, but it isn’t that simple. The physical work that goes into training is one dimension of women’s sports. The next dimension is mental training. These two aspects of training is expected to be challenging and we accept the work that must go into this area of training. We know we will have to overcome fears, work through sore muscles, train when we would rather sleep, and push ourselves further than we thought we could perform.
Every now and again there are those additional challenges that make you think, really, what, are you serious? With everything that I have to deal with in training, now I have to worry about negativity and drama from teammates, parents, or social media!
Unfortunately, there may come a time when every girl will have to deal with jealousy, mean comments, or even pure sabotage. Chances are there will be confrontations, arguments, and drama, after all this is sports and we are dealing with young athletes who are learning not only about sports, but also about life.
Athletes must learn how to handle the social challenges that come along with sports. Athletes will have feelings, emotions, and behave is ways that they may not even understand, and sports is the best place for them to learn how to deal with it.
In sports, there will always be someone who is either better than you or someone who is nipping at your heels. It can bring out the worst in us, if we let it. When our spot on a team is threatened, we can have numerous feelings.
These feeling can make us feel inferior, envious, or bitter. We may start to doubt ourselves or our abilities and talent. The first thing we may feel the need to do is protect our self-esteem. This can come out in mean comments, texts, tweets, or gossip. The comments can be hurtful, belittling, even lies and in the end, it doesn’t help the situation, it only makes things worse.
Communication can be a great way to work out a person’s feelings. Talking things out, usually help a person understand what they are feeling, why they are feeling it, and what they can do about it. When children and young adults aren’t taught the correct way to communicate, that’s when arguments, confrontations, and even bullying can occur.
Most of the time mean girl comments, gossip, snide remarks, or drama are a normal yet painful part of growing up. The girl saying the comments and the girl who the comments are made about will both need guidance and help in dealing with their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. As painful as these situations may be, there is a fine line when these comments become bullying.
Bullying is an extreme case of taunting and tormenting where someone uses their power to harm or intimidate the weaker person. Although bullying is completely unacceptable, not every case of mean comments, gossip, or social media is bullying.
Dealing with this type of drama in your gym can be frustrating, annoying, and seem counterproductive to training. Not dealing with it, or handling it the wrong way, won’t make it go away and may even exacerbate more gym drama.
When dealing with gym drama, here are some tips:
- Before implementing consequences, get ALL the facts. Not everything is always what it seems.
- Gather all parties involved and ask questions. Talk to each person separately, and then as a group.
- Each person will have their own perspective of the situation. Try to understand all perspectives before making decisions.
- The person who tattletales is not always the victim. A person may tattletale to try to get another person in trouble, although they may have provoked the situation. Many times athletes act differently to their coaches faces then they do around the other athletes. Don’t be surprised if the coach’s favorite is the instigator.
- Sometimes the one who is being mistreated won’t speak up.
- Have an open mind and don’t judge the athlete or take sides.
- NOT EVERY CONFLICT, MISUNDERSTANDING, OR ARGUMENT WILL NEED A CONSEQUENCE!
- Set Clear Rules and Regulations regarding gossip, texting, and all social media. Having a zero tolerance policy may sound like a good idea, but remember no one is perfect and lessons need to be taught.
- Include what types of communication is acceptable and unacceptable.
- List clear consequences for each offense. The first offense should have a minimum consequence, second offense should have a more strict consequence, and so on. For example, First offense is sitting out of practice for a day. Second offense is being asked to leave the gym for the day. Third offense is a week suspension. Fourth offense is removal from team.
- The consequences must match the offense and parents must be contacted every time.
- Have coaches, athletes, and parents sign a contract agreeing to the rules and consequences.
- Unless there are clear rules and consequences, it is unfair and confusing to implement consequences.
- Be consistent and apply rules to EVERY member of the team. Apply all rules every time, even if the team will suffer.
- For example, if a flyer on a cheer team has a consequence of sitting out of practice because they posted an inappropriate picture on Instagram, the stunt group will not be able to perform for the day. Stick to the consequence even if it means the stunt group will be one day behind.
- Follow through with the consequence even if it affects the stunt group. The flyer will see their actions not only affect themselves, but the stunt group, the team, and also the gym.
- If consequences are not consistent, the athletes may start to not believe, trust, and respect the coach.
- Teach the athlete the desired behavior. Each situation must have a solution.
- Without judgment or anger, discuss why the athlete chose to act in such a manner.
- Ask what is the main cause of the situation.
- Discuss what feelings and emotions the situation created.
- Discuss how their actions helped or hurt the situation.
- Discuss what feelings and emotions it caused for the other person.
- Explain other options that can help the situation for next time.
- Discuss a way for them to come to an understanding or agreement with both involved?
- Ask what the athlete thinks they can do in the future next time a similar situation arises.
The most important thing to remember is that coaches are dealing with children and young adults. They will make mistakes and they will need to learn from them. They will need to be taught what they are doing wrong and how to behavior appropriately.
The only way to keep drama, mean girl comments, and bullying to a minimum is to teach your athletes how to communicate, resolve conflict, and understand their feelings and the feelings of their teammates. When athletes can understand why they feel the way they do, they can start to take control over their emotions and learn how to not only empower themselves, but those around them.
Teach your team how to be compassionate, care about others, and empathetic toward others needs by being a role model. Show them how to care, love, and understand themselves and their teammates.
Visit Wendy’s site www.psyched4sports.com for more articles and information on all things sports. You can also read Wendy’s articles in International Gymnast Magazine, Inside Gymnastics, and www.goldmedalmoms.com. Don’t forget to pick up Wendy’s new book, Breaking Through a Mental Block TODAY.