One or two bullies can ruin preschool soccer.
Kids of all ages can enjoy soccer -- under the right circumstances. Toddlers aren't ready for organized sports yet, but preschoolers can play in non-competitive, recreational programs designed to teach the basics of teamwork and good sportsmanship. At this age, the game is often described as "magnet ball" or "herd ball," since the kids all clump up together after the ball. You've prepared your preschooler for a little jostling as part of that, but what do you do if the little Beckham wannabe on the other team shoves and bullies kids? Count to 10 in every language you know -- and then ask the coach to step in.
1Allow the referees and coaches to manage the game. If a child is playing too aggressively or unfairly, they should take note of this and handle it directly with the bully. Yes, it's tough to restrain your mama grizzly impulses, especially if your child is on the receiving end of the pushing. But it's in the best interests of the game and the kids involved if the system is allowed to work as it should.
2Talk to other parents whose judgment you trust to find out whether any of them saw the offending child bully others. If this is a pattern with this particular child, odds are good that the coaches or referees in the league already are aware of it. If, on the other hand, this appears to be a one-off incident, take a long, deep breath before taking any action. Let trusted friends' comments help put the bullying in perspective for you, since it's tough staying objective when your child is getting shoved around. Try to find the balance between typical bumping around and outright bullying -- and react only if it crosses the line into hurtful or dangerous behavior.
3Talk to your child's coach at half-time about your concerns, especially if the referees seem oblivious to what's going on. Never talk to the coach in front of the kids. Take him aside and speak briefly and calmly to him about the kid who's pushing others or being overly aggressive. Ask him to monitor the situation and weigh in to address it if the bullying continues. Let him approach the bully's coach or the referee rather than doing it yourself.
4Contact the league commissioner or head of the soccer program if the coaches and refs aren't willing to address a persistent bully on the field. Tell her your concerns and ask her to take action to stop the bullying. If you can cite specific elements of the league's sportsmanship policy to back your position, do so. Again, remain calm and keep emotions at bay, even if it's not easy. Everyone is more likely to take you seriously if you present a reasoned, straightforward, concise case, than if you come across as a hysterical or over-protective parent.
- Remind your child that, while it's not OK to push back, it is OK to stand her ground or mention the bullying problem to her coach.
- Do not approach the bully yourself. It's unlikely to solve the problem -- and it will almost certainly anger his parents and embarrass your own child.