Would you try to explain to the fox the rights and feelings of hens? Nail a code of ethics, a code of respectful conduct on the door? If the answer is “yes”, it is not worth reading any further, because I will show that the fight against harassment and bullying in youth sports is an empty box if you rely on the faith in the magical power of ethics and punishment lists. Therefore, I will first remind the most persistent stereotypes hindering to understand the seriousness of the situation, and then, I will present several anti-harassment and anti-bullying practices applied in foreign countries. Finally, I will show you the gaps yawning in our country’s sports schools.
Myths about aggression and bullying
First, the stereotypical understanding of gender-related aggression leads to tenebrous fallows in which only weeds grow. It is common to think that the male breed is the embodiment of aggression, while women and girls are white and fluffy. The research conducted by Kaj Björkqvist, one of the most serious and highly cited researchers of aggression and bullying in the recent period, shows that there are no essential differences between boys and girls according to common verbal aggression indicators. Only male aggression is more common in the physical form; while female aggression, in indirect. This is nothing new, I mention this author just because domestic imagination does not correspond to reality. Indirect aggression is the same aggression, it only manifests itself in more covert ways, by manipulations in social relationships. In other words, in a more “refined” manner. However, it is no less dangerous.
Dan Olweus, another well-known Scandinavian scientist, has refuted several more myths related to child bullying. First, the frequency of bullying has nothing to do with school size. Just the more students, the more incidents, and comparing the means, the numbers level off. In other words, it is naive to expect that children will feel safer in a smaller school. Second, competition for better ratings for achievements has nothing to do with it here too. And third, the external features of victims play a much smaller role than it is commonly believed. If the child is plump or wears glasses, he/she is not necessarily doomed to bullying. However, the child distinguishing himself/herself by greater anxiety, lower self-esteem may become a target of bullying because a passive, silent posture signals that the attacker is unlikely to receive retaliation. As we will see further, this circumstance will be very important when it comes to prevention of bullying. Especially being aware that one is not born but becomes both the victim and the bully.
D. Olweus also drew attention to the most serious problem – the approach of the school as an institution to bullying. That is, the schools’ ability to create safe environment, what prevention and intervention mechanisms operate to prevent bullying from escalating and to enable children to feel safe. This is what we will talk about further.
How brakes of bullying (do not) work
While we are wondering that some Lithuanian sports schools and teams do not have more decent rules of ethics and fair conduct, trains in foreign countries run on different rails. Of course, rules, just like the society’s education, are very important, but these measures alone do not yield anything. Just like various platforms for reporting bullying and harassment do no good (unless you put a tick to make your sleep calmer when caught by inspectors). It is the same as to buy expensive, great tires in the hope of a safer ride but have no concern about the car’s entire braking system working flawlessly. In this case, it is not that important whether the platform is introduced at school or elsewhere, whether children are being taught to draw or throw the ball. Of course, bullying in sport has its own specificity but these are already other topics – ethics of training, established traditions, and recognition of bullying. These are discussed in my other essays.