Responsibilities of clubs and counties
- Make all members and employees of the club and all county representatives aware that bullying will not be tolerated and that action will be taken when it occurs.
- Create an environment of mutual support, care and consideration for others within the junior section.
Challenging bullying behaviour
- Stop bullying immediately when it occurs.
- Support the victims of bullying.
- Address the behaviour of the bully.
This can be tackled by the development of a club policy around bullying that everyone has to agree to, but actual implementation is just as important. Any anti-bullying policy has to work in practice, not just on paper.
Besides the many negative effects bullying can have on children, there is also a negative effect for clubs. If a club doesn’t deal with bullying properly, it will develop a reputation as an unhappy place where kids don’t feel safe. And a reputation, once damaged, is a difficult thing to restore.
The kids are likely to vote with their feet, with parents reluctant to get involved.
What is bullying?
Bullying is behaviour, repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another person, physically or emotionally. It can be aimed at an individual or a group. The bully could be another child or an adult.
Bullying can take many forms, including:
- Emotional – being unfriendly, excluding, sending hurtful text messages and tormenting (e.g. hiding golf clubs, making threatening gestures), making sly remarks.
- Physical – pushing, kicking, hitting, punching or any use of violence.
- Racist – racial taunts, graffiti, gestures.
- Sexual – unwanted physical contact, sexually suggestive or abusive comments.
- Homophobic – taunts or actions that happen because of the victim’s sexuality, or focus on the issue of sexuality.
- Verbal – name-calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, teasing.
- Cyber – email and internet misuse, threats made via text messages and phone calls, hurtful social networking messages, spreading rumours online.
Adults can bully children. In fact, the bully’s position as coach, team manager or junior organiser can appear to legitimise or mask the behaviour. Think carefully – is the coach’s feedback constructive criticism, or does it consist of negative personal comments that eat away at the child’s self-confidence? Is the team happy, or does the junior organiser run it with an attitude of ‘my way or the highway’? Is poor performance being punished, as opposed to effort being rewarded?
Bullying can constitute a child protection concern if a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. It can even be a crime. Regardless of the legal implications, it’s obvious just from a moral perspective that bullying is wrong and that every child should be protected from it.
How can you recognise bullying?
Kids who are being bullied can become anxious or withdrawn. Their schoolwork or performance in golf might suffer. They may be unhappy, depressed or moody, have trouble sleeping, or develop eating disorders. Their self-esteem and confidence will tend to suffer.
Victims of bullying may behave in the following ways:
- Becoming more withdrawn;
- Spending more time alone, away from the group;
- Avoiding particular people;
- Bullying others;
- Making quick exits;
- Talking and interacting less;
- Becoming aggressive, disruptive or unreasonable;
- Being reluctant to go to particular places;
- ‘Losing’ belongings or having broken equipment;
- Having bruises, cuts and other injuries;
- Losing weight or adopting more unusual/extreme eating habits;
- Being nervous or jumpy when receiving a text;
- Being reluctant to use the internet or their mobile phone.
Bullying that happens at school or elsewhere can spill over into golf, too. A rival at school might continue their behaviour at the club and try to turn others against the victim.
Someone who’s being bullied can be reluctant to tell anyone what’s happening. They may worry about being embarrassed if their issue is raised in public, that they will be dropped from the team, or that their parents will stop them coming to the club in order to protect them. Children will put up with unacceptable behaviour if their sport is very important to them and they fear it will be taken away.
THE CLUB’S APPROACH
Develop an Anti-bullying Policy
Make sure your policy explains in detail the club’s views on bullying and how it will be dealt with. It should be clear that the club will listen to children and has their welfare at the centre of its concerns.
The Anti-Bullying Policy should cross-reference the club’s social media and technology policy, because technology is often used by bullies. See our Social Media page for more information.
We’ve provided a number of example policies to help you, but make sure to review them carefully and adapt them for your own needs.
Setting an example and creating the right atmosphere in the club
Pay attention to how children and adults are behaving in the club and challenge inappropriate behaviour before it gets worse. People calling each other names should be addressed with the same kind of commitment as people who are being violent. It is all bullying and all unacceptable.
Adults’ behaviour in the club should set an example for children. There should be a code of conduct for both adults and children, and these should be enforced. If children are expected to maintain standards, then they should expect nothing less from the adults around them, both those in charge of the junior section and ordinary members.
It’s important that the club communicates its policies around bullying and child safeguarding to parents and young people. This will reassure parents that the welfare of their children is the club’s first priority, and that any problems will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. Children should also feel confident that if they voice concerns they will be taken seriously. Appointing an approachable person as the club’s Child Welfare Officer (and ensuring kids know who this person is) can mean children are more likely to express their worries, so the club can deal with issues before they escalate.
Dealing with bullying incidents
Dealing with the immediate situation
Respond in a calm and objective way. Listen carefully to the person who is reporting the bullying. Reassure them they have done the right thing by telling the club and that they will be taken seriously. Try not to raise too many barriers, such as requiring a complaint to be put in writing before action can be taken. Insisting on this at an early stage can appear defensive or evasive.
Take time to hear the whole story and get a clear picture of what’s happened. Try not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions. It’s more productive to search for solutions than to search for someone to blame.
Make a record of what you are told, when and by whom.
Report the concern to the Club Welfare Officer, who should in turn report serious cases to your NGB. You may contact the NGB to talk through any incidents, regardless of the seriousness, for advice about the next steps to take. It’s far easier to initially seek advice than to backtrack at a later stage. If you don’t feel able to contact the NGB, then call the NSPCC anonymous helpline on 0808 800 5000. For more information, see our Reporting Concerns page.
Notify parents if their child has reported bullying and involve them at an early stage.
Investigate the circumstances thoroughly, hearing both sides. Children should not be ‘interviewed’ without their parents being present and the ‘testimony’ of children should be taken just as seriously as that of adults.
Dealing with the bully
If inappropriate and cruel behaviour is not dealt with, the same children may continue to bully or be bullied. Other children might see this as a green light to bully too.
There are many possible motivations for bullying. The bully may feel powerless or angry and finds an outlet in taking their feelings out on others. They may get a self-esteem boost from the attention of their friends, which they can’t achieve in other ways. They may not understand the feelings of others, or may have been bullied themselves.
Consider the most appropriate action to take. Sanctions should be realistic, fair, and easily understood and implemented. They could include:
- Bullies being asked to apologise;
- An informal or formal warning about future conduct;
- Suspension or exclusion from the club or particular activities.
Monitor the situation to make sure the problem doesn’t continue or that the bullying hasn’t just become better hidden.
Supporting the victim
It’s important the victim feels comfortable and wants to continue attending the club. Should another member of the junior section act as a buddy? Would they benefit from receiving support from an outside agency? For more information, check out Bullying UK and Kidscape.