Bullieve it

Posted: November 14, 2015 in Rants in my Pants


First thing you notice about ‘Anti-bullying week’, this coming week, are that it’s only 5 days long and that it focuses exclusively on kids & young people.


Maybe it should be a full week, and the other 2 days should focus on adults playing football next weekend, because bullying stays with you for life and bullying goes on in all walks of life. This means that, by simple arithmetic, there are more adult bullies out there than child bullies, and by simple psychology, that adult bullying is a principal cause of child bullying.

At at least two of the schools I attended, we were systematically bullied by the PE/sports staff, which seemed to be fairly typical in those days. The resulting bitterness will never go away, and it has made me very sensitive to those who abuse their power around any sports pitch. Indeed it has meant that there are a couple of sports that these people tried to ‘teach’ in their sadistic ways, that I will never be able to enjoy in any way.

An interesting aspect of the definition of bullying, published by the Anti-Bullying Alliance who organise this ‘awareness week’, is that it includes the word ‘intentional’. We can guess that this is to enable educators to argue for sanctions against perpetrators, where unintentional acts would be a case for education rather than sanction, and that once further education has been given, then an act can be considered ‘intentional’. It is difficult to know how much the teachers and coaches who bullied us were doing it ‘intentionally’ in that sense, because you don’t know what awareness they had or whether they were just involuntarily repeating ways in which they themselves had been bullied. They did though seem to want to hurt us and I will never forget that.

I’m sure the days of the good old-fashioned, sadistic, sergeant-major-style PE teacher are long gone, but the legacy is still there in plenty of sports teams, whether it is what people say to each other or the tone of voice they use. Misogynist and homophobic bullying is still rife in amateur football, from on and off the pitch. But even ‘nice’, ‘educated’ people who wouldn’t dream of being homophobic or sexist can still be bullies if they do not exercise tact and tolerance in how they talk to team-mates and opposition on the pitch.

Bullying isn’t handball, and I would argue that it doesn’t have to be intentional – if you repeatedly make someone feel bad in a futile attempt to cajole them into doing something you are mentally/physically capable of doing/willing to do but they aren’t, you are bullying them even if you don’t fully realise in what ways they are less capable or willing than you.

So let’s start with our own team-mates. No it isn’t just banter, no it isn’t just exasperation with the performance of others, no it isn’t alright to talk to someone like that as soon as you step over a white line in a park. Please be careful fellas, and why not just be prepared to lose the f*cking match rather than aggressively express your own exasperation with weaker players, whether the perceived weaknesses be physical or mental. Our own team-mates will hopefully soon become aware that we would rather lose than be bullied, that we will always, always stand up to it verbally, and that we won’t be back if it happens again. And ‘try grow a thicker skin’ should never, ever be anyone’s shrugging advice to the bullied … not until the advisor can find comparable examples where it successfully changed anything.

Get that sorted and we can then all stand up together to some of the bullying dickheads on opposing teams or the pond life on their touchlines.



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