Kris Van Der Haegen

Kris Van Der Haegen

Royal Belgian Football Association
Director Coach Education
Assistant coach Red Flames
UEFA JIRA Panel member

Bullying is really an epidemic in our society today, and therefore more and more in sport too. That is why all sport associations and their leaders have to spread a clear message about how coaches should lead by example and how they can prevent bullying!

It is obvious that bullying has to be banned in sport because of the negative impact on players/athletes: they lose focus, feel anxious and stressed, perform less and even drop out of the sport in the longer term or quit sport. As a coach, do you want to be the player’s last coach?

In my opinion, it is a vital part of the role of the coach to create a positive environment where all the individuals feel safe and are motivated to get the best out of their potential.

We cannot forget that all individuals are different, so the coaches should not compare them to each other but help them and guide them individually to become better every day. Let us create the environment where players/athletes work hard to become a better version of themselves and where coaches and parents fully support them on that journey.

Of course, in performance sports, delivering performances is most important. Even in this environment, positive coaching is the best way to bring players to a higher level and to prepare them to perform in the best possible way: a positive approach in the feedback (even when the performance is not the best one) will be more effective than bullying! Players will feel trust and confidence of the coach and will be more motivated to run a mile and to deliver the best possible performance.

Coaches set the stage for how players in a team treat one another. They should make it very clear that they want to create an atmosphere of respect, support and team unity. They should also state clearly that they will not tolerate players bullying each other just like members of other teams or the referee.The coach is the key person to spread a clear message at the start of the season: “In my team, this is how we are going to communicate and treat each other.” If coaches do not show that kind of leadership, their team members (or parents) may start talking negatively about anyone in the team, anyone in other teams or the referee.