Preventing bullying in sports

Protecting our kids, making a positive difference

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Organized sports come packed with opportunities to develop new skills, athletically, emotionally and socially.

Dr. Max Trenerry, a Mayo Clinic sports psychologist, believes in teaching players to appreciate the core qualities that make competitive sports worthwhile.

"And for me, I think one of the issues gets to be that everybody has a responsibility, but it's not necessarily based on seniority.  It's based on effort and dedication."

Trenerry is also a youth soccer coach and Sport Psychology consultant for U.S. Youth Soccer's Region II.  He says his objective is to instill values to prevent negative behavior, like bullying, and also to "inoculate" kids so that they are better prepared if they become the target of bullying.

So mixed into Trenerry's conditioning and fundamental soccer training are healthy doses of fun, and clear messages about values and teamwork.

"And I think that helps prevent the development of clicks or small groups within a team. I think it helps develop some appreciation of teammates," he explained.

Trenerry says when young athletes identify the behaviors they want to see in others, the more likely they are to behave that way themselves.

"So as a teammate you would help protect somebody that was being bullied," he said.

Trenerry said while a parent does not want to encourage quitting, don't force a child to stick with a sport if bullying is causing ongoing emotional stress.   And always remember professional help is available.

Trenerry says competition is useful for bringing out an athlete's best effort, but believes there's often far too much focus on winning rather than the quality of play.

For more information  on preventing bullying in sports you can go to the mayo clinic's website at or you can call the Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville at (904) 953-2272.

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