Posted at: 08/28/2012 6:21 PM
By: Melanie Bloom
Medical Edge: Sports Bullies
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- For children, the competitive nature of sports can add an extra element of aggression that may lead to bullying. A Mayo Clinic Sports Psychologist explains how parents, coaches, and kids can all make a positive difference.
Organized sports come packed with opportunities to develop new skills, athletically, emotionally and socially. Tammy Gathman says her daughter has certainly grown from playing soccer.
"What kind of attitudes have you shown? What kind of qualities?"
Dr. Max Trenerry, a sports psychologist at Mayo Clinic, believes in teaching players to appreciate the core qualities that make competitive sports worthwhile.
“I think one of the issues gets to be that everybody has a responsibility, but it's not necessarily based on seniority. It's based on effort and dedication,” said Dr. Trenerry.
Mayo Clinic Sports Psychologist Max Trenerry also a youth soccer coach and Sport Psychology consultant for U.S. Youth Soccer's Region II. Dr. Trenerry says his objective is to instill values to prevent negative behavior, like bullying, and also to "inoculate" kids so that they are better prepared if they become the target of bullying. So, mixed into his conditioning & fundamental soccer training are healthy doses of fun, and clear messages about values and teamwork.
“I think that helps prevent the development of clicks or small groups within a team. I think it helps develop some appreciation of teammates,” said Dr. Trenerry.
Dr. Trenerry says when young athletes identify the behaviors they want to see in others, the more likely they are to behave that way themselves. He says while a parent does not want to encourage quitting, don't force a child to stick with a sport if bullying is causing ongoing emotional stress. And always remember professional help is available.
“You may need some clinical assistance with that so that you may have to consult a psychologist to deal with the emotional aftermath,” said Dr. Trenerry.
Dr. Trenerry says competition is useful for bringing out an athlete's best effort, but believes there's often far too much focus on winning instead of the quality of play.