01/30/2012 07:43 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2012

When the Coach Is the Bully

Yep, it may be the coach who is your teen's bully. Coaches, in a misguided attempt to motivate your child to run faster, be more alert, more aggressive, or even more involved may use harsh tactics. We have all observed coaches yelling, criticizing, and publicly embarrassing team members especially in the middle of a heated game. While I like to think that most coaches are inspiring and supportive it is high time to address the subgroup of coaches who are intimidating our kids and unknowingly chipping away at their self-esteem and desire to continue the sport.

First, it is my hope that if a number of parents observe a coach behaving in a demeaning manner that they try to address this as a group so that no single child gets singled out. It certainly is possible that the coach is well-intentioned and has little awareness of how s/he is affecting the kids. Perhaps, the coach will change her behavior and use more effective techniques to motivate the kids and promote team spirit.

If the coach continues to be a bully despite an intervention, perhaps it is possible to get your teen on a different team. You certainly don't want your teen to quit the activity because of the coach. If this coach and this team is the only game in town then you may want to help your teen try a different strategy which will help her build mental resilience. Suggest that she focus on the game rather than on the coach's behavior.

Ultimately, your teen may develop a skill -- learning how to deal with difficult people. However, if the coach's behavior becomes too degrading or belittling I would never coerce a child to continue with this activity. Sports are supposed to build skill, confidence, and team spirit rather than b e a source of anxiety, fear, and dread.

Good luck.

Do you have coach stories that you'd like to share?