Bullying and abuse in sport

Blog post: bullying within sport

Recent news has shed some light on bullying within the athletic realm. Members of the Miami Dolphins professional football team have been accused of verbally harassing one of their teammates, Johnathon Martin. Martin in turn made the, I’m sure extremely devastating, choice to leave the Dolphins. Bullying, harassment and abuse within sport is much more prevalent than the general population knows or chooses to acknowledge. Because athletes are often glorified by others, they are often perceived as people who are immune to ailments such as bullying or abuse. As Martin so courageously pointed out, it happens. I can assure you that not only does it happen,  but happens at staggering rates. Research statistics on prevalence of bullying, harassment or abuse are practically non existent. The NCAA conducts reports on hazing within college athletics but even that is minimal. Why is the research so sparse and overlooked on this subject? There are many reasons. For one, the majority of athletes do not have ally’s to turn to when they are a victim of abuse, or bullying. Even Martin turned to his lawyer, which from a social services standpoint has not trauma training, or expertise in mental health, from which to aid in his emotional needs or know how to properly handle the situation. Mental health professionals such as social workers, counselors, psychologists etc are trained and knowledgable of how to properly handle situations involving bullying and abuse. However, according to research athletes at the less likely, compared to the general population, to seek help from these professionals. This is because these professionals are not already involved within the athletic realm, like athletic trainers for instance, therefore athletes are unlikely to seek their aid. Athletes are also trained from a young age to “be tough”,and  “push through it” because pain or suffering means weakness, which historically within sport, should not be shown. This means reporting bullying can be perceived as weakness. Athletes also may have fear that the person they turn to to report the bullying or abuse will not believe them, which could put them in danger of additional abuse.

Research is also sparse on the topic of abuse and bullying because of athletic politics. The business of athletics is a multi billion dollar one, and airing their dirty laundry would more than likely hurt their business. However, the NCAA has made a commitment to student athlete well being, and needs to honor that in a wholistic manner, not just what they think is important. Attached is a link to an article to help further outline bullying within sport as well as ways to identify it, and how to handle if someone reports bullying or abuse.

Namaste

http://www.sportlaw.ca/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/CASEM-Discussion-Paper-December-2010.pdf

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