Trigger warning: This is quite a serious post and I have debated whether to publish it or not for a while now, but I think it is important, at least so those currently experiencing some of these things can know that they are not alone. Please take care of yourself while reading and please do not reactively comment. If you would like to comment on Facebook, please do not go into details. Stay classy and rise above. Don’t lower yourself to using social media to try to get back at anyone. Stay classy and check yourself first and foremost- as always, the only person we can control or improve is ourselves!
With disturbing regularity, I get emails, messages and questions about how to deal with bullies around shows. Often these come from people who’ve started to have some success and are now having bad experiences that they had no clue existed when they were just plodding along.
I know the majority of people in our sports are lovely, but there are those who, frankly, are bullies. They may not see themselves as such but let’s take a moment to call out some of the behaviours that I hear about regularly.
I’m NOT talking about casual or thoughtless things people say, and I’m NOT talking about people who for their own reasons are perhaps more sensitive to criticism. What I AM talking about are those people who – check yourself before you point the finger at others- GRATUITOUSLY and for SELFISH or other NEGATIVE reasons are determined to put others off and make them feel less as people.
Behaviours include (this is not an exhaustive list)-
*Gathering a gang of cronies and deliberately trying to INTIMIDATE others – physically & emotionally
*Spreading malicious lies
*Deliberately treating others like pariahs/outcasts because of their success (seriously- who REALLY has the problem?)
*Verbally attacking specific people and getting in their space
*Physical assault- ‘accidentally’ bashing into a rival so hard as to try to knock them over.
*Following rivals around (stalking)
These things are UNACCEPTABLE. They are also UNNECESSARY. I know some might say they’re merely ‘playing the game’ and if you ‘can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen’, but really?
Is that a valid excuse?
…For setting a negative tone at competitions?
…For modelling bullying and abusive behaviours to others?
…Is your own character and integrity worth so little to you that you are willing to belittle others and leave them fearful, just in hopes that they might mess up and give you a better chance of doing well?
Are you really THAT insecure and are your skills really THAT hit-or-miss that you have to resort to bullying tactics?
If you’re THAT good…
…you can afford to be nice.
If you’re that good…
…I would argue you should be able to appreciate the competition and thrive on it, without needing to tear it down.
If you’re that good…
…your competition can do their best, and you will still be able to come out on top- only now you’ll have done it against them at their best, rather than after you’ve mentally played them.
Focus on developing your skills and doing what you need to do and leave crass behaviours to lesser individuals. Please.
Even if the person you’re trying to put off is actually a horrible nasty person, to do what you’re doing:
a) makes you less of a person and
b) ignores that no matter how horrible they are, you don’t know what makes them that way and
c) by treating them so poorly, you’re not acknowledging that they are a human with feelings.
You also don’t know what else is going on in their lives and how your behaviours may be pushing them towards a very dark place. I have seen this, so I personally want to beg you, from my professional perspective to STOP. NOW. People have entire lives and stresses outside sports and your behaviour matters.
Let me remind you- whether you’re the bully or the bullied, that the rule of law still applies in sports venues.
One other point to note- when you see bullying and silently participate or fail to do anything to stop it, you are complicit. You are siding in that moment with the intimidator, the bully, and are effectively doing what they do. And let’s be honest, there is NOTHING to say that you won’t be their next target!
Whether you are a raw beginner, or an experienced competitor, you are first and foremost human, and your behaviour matters. What you accept, you allow. You have power to be the sort of person who brightens up a room by your attitudes, or bringing it down. You choose whether to change the tone of conversation or go along with it- for better or for worse.
On behalf of the many folks I have encountered who have experienced bullying, abuse and aggression, please be part of the solution.
Be the sort of person you want to encounter at competitions and training, I dare you! As the famous quote goes: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’