How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Bullying

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sports through education, resources and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sports community recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sports. For more information, please visit safesport.org .

One of the greatest lesson’s athletes take away from sport is the experience of being on a team where coaches and individuals support one another. Actions that demean or intimidate athletes, either physically or emotionally, can affect performance and team cohesion. Since bullying often occurs among peers, coaches can set an example with a zero-tolerance policy and emphasize teamwork and mutual support. Giving athletes a way to report behavior without fear of reprisal is also important.


Bullying is repeated and/or severe behavior(s) that are (a) aggressive (b) directed at a Minor, and (c) intended or likely to hurt, control, or diminish the Minor emotionally, physically or sexually. Bullying-like behaviors directed at adults are addressed under other forms of misconduct, such as Hazing and/or Harassment. Examples of bullying behavior may include, without limitation, repeated and/or severe: 

a. Physical: Hitting, pushing, punching, beating, biting, striking, kicking, choking, spitting or slapping, or throwing objects (such as sporting equipment) at another person. 
b. Verbal: Ridiculing, taunting, name-calling or intimidating or threatening to cause someone harm. 
c. Social, including cyberbullying: Use of rumors or false statements about someone to diminish that person’s reputation; using electronic communications, social media or other technology to harass, frighten, intimidate or humiliate someone; socially excluding someone and asking others to do the same. 
d. Sexual: Ridiculing or taunting based on gender or sexual orientation (real or perceived), gender traits or behavior, or teasing someone about their looks or behavior as it relates to sexual attractiveness. 
e. Criminal Conduct: Bullying Behavior includes any conduct described as bullying under federal or state law. 


Conduct may not rise to the level of Bullying Behavior if it is merely rude (inadvertently saying or doing something hurtful), mean (purposefully saying or doing something hurtful, but not as part of a pattern of behavior), or arising from conflict or struggle between persons who perceive they have incompatible views and/or positions. Bullying does not include professionally accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, appropriate discipline, or improved Athlete performance. 

Courtesy of The United States Olympic Committee