How to deal with a Bully Coach
So today I want to address an issue that happens more often than you realize. What to do if you have a Dance Coach or any coach for that matter that is being a Bully to your kid. Here are some tips on what you can do to get through a situation when your child is put through the ringer by either a Passive Coach, Miss Popular Coach or a Power Hungry Coach.
#1 - The PASSIVE COACH - Yes in my opinion this type of coach is just as bad as a Bully. The Passive Coach is the one who turns a blind eye to situations that happen within the team dynamics. This is the Coach who knows that their dancer posts crazy rants, starts fights or puts up inappropriate photos of themselves all over their social media and does nothing to help stop, prevent or guide them in the right direction. We have established a "ANTI-BULLY SOCIAL MEDIA" policy in our contracts that dancers AND parents must sign at the beginning of the season. The PASSIVE COACH will allow the more aggressive bully type members to basically take over the team. They are either afraid of those members, don't care about their team or that bully type member is an excellent athlete / dancer so they let stuff slide so they don't loose their talents for performing for themselves. I've seen this type of coaching behavior happen a lot in my lifetime - especially living in small towns. This type of Coach is more about either the WINS so they will do what they can to let their superstars do whatever they want or they simply have no backbone and are either afraid of what that bully member or their parent would do if they held them accountable for their actions.
HOW TO HANDLE A PASSIVE COACH? Hold them accountable if you see them acting in this way. Show them that your aware of what is going on and bring it up to the attention of your dance teacher or studio owner immediately before the situation gets worse. If your dancer is on a high school team go straight to the administration. If this doesn't work then your next option is to take matters into your own hands and confront the parents of the bully type member and make it clear you will not tolerate this behavior. Then if all else fails go find a studio or team that has a very good "ANTI-BULLY / SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY" in their handbooks / contracts for your dancer to join instead. Never ever just leave your dancer in this type of environment they will never survive if nothing is ever done to reprimand the PASSIVE COACH for allowing this to continue. Don't let your dancer stay in the dark - shed some light on the problem so that others who may have been through the same problem will rally up and unite with you to initiate change!
#2 - The MISS POPULAR COACH is the one I can't stand the most. This is the coach that wants to be liked more by their peers or fellow parents then what is best for the team. This is the coach that is most found in small town environments. How many times have you witnessed a kid whose family's name in the community being the "bad" family being already pegged as a "bad" kid too? Or if that family name is one that has some type of political power like for example the administrator's relations, or town council members kid seems to get a little more playing time or placed in special roles because it's who they are versus what their talent is. The MISS POPULAR COACH will be the one who "weeds out" who they think are bad for the image of their team by secretly pushing them out of their teams events. Allowing things like communication with parents fall through the cracks or basically make that dancer / athlete feel like they are not welcomed on the team. A coach like this will use your child as the example to not be like or warn their members to not be like or hang around and basically gang up the team to rally around and push out the NOT WANTED member. Also the MISS POPULAR COACH in some cases will have very little knowledge of the sport or activity their coaching simply so they can help their own kids get the upper hand or advantage. Now in my own personal situation that has been thrown in my face as what I did with my kids but if anyone ever danced with me if you were my favorite or my child you know I was harder on those favorites and expected my kids to be held more accountable for upholding the perfect behavior and example. Students / Parents in our studio saw me yell and scream the most with my own children then I ever did at another dance kid. I always favored a kid who deserved the support and 9 times out of 10 it was out of heart, commitment, dedication and hard work then it was based on their natural talents. Growing up as an athlete my whole life I learned the hard way coming from small towns and moving into big cities if you don't show your effort behind your desire to be an outstanding athlete or dancer then you have no excuses left to say why you didn't get playtime. A coach who favors the hard worker is the coach who is truly looking out for the best interest of the team. Because in most cases the best players on them team will see the admiration the coach gives to the hardest working member and will work even harder in turn making them an even better superstar. However; the MISS POPULAR COACH will be the one who puts all their eggs in the baskets of the athlete or dancer they think will take them to the top or the one who has the biggest name in town and when they fail will be the first those athletes and parents will throw under the bus for not making them win. So those coaches usually don't last long.
WHAT CAN YOU DEAL WITH THE MISS POPULAR COACH?
My suggestion in dealing with the MISS POPULAR COACH my advice is to encourage your dancer or athlete to start finding outside alternatives from the start of the season. Go get some one on one coaching from a private coach from either another town, another community, another city or another studio. Find someone who can help mold your student into giving them that one on one time they definitely will not find with the MISS POPULAR COACH. Also teach your child to be a GAME PLAYER. And what I mean by this is NEVER COMPLAIN about the coaches methods or favoritism. This will get you on the watch list you don't want to be on. The MISS POPULAR COACH will begin to see you as the parent or your child as a "TROUBLE MAKER". The GAME PLAYER athlete will be the one who gives everything they got a practice, patiently waits for their time to be on the field or smile just as grand in the back row. The GAME PLAYER is friends with everyone and makes it clear to stay far away from any in studio drama especially with the FAVORITES or NAMES of the team so to speak. This one of the hardest Coaches for your kid to be under watching from the sidelines as a parent. That's why I suggest the private coaching on the side so that you and your child finds some special recognition they are not gaining from the MISS POPULAR COACH. If those avenues don't work then I suggest once again finding another team, another sport or another studio to join because you can never win with the MISS POPULAR COACH unless you have that name, reputation or power they think they can gain from your kid or you.
#3 THE POWER HUNGRY COACH - This is the coach that I would say I lean more towards then the other two above. I have to admit there have been times in my over 20 years coaching and teaching that I have fallen into those moments where I wanted the win more for my own personal glory and satisfaction then I knew was best for my team. WHO REMEMBERS THE INFAMOUS GOLDEN CUP OBSESSION? I would sacrifice whatever it took and that at times would be dancers or members that I would push too hard or expect too much from and ultimately got me to loosing members and loosing faith in me and every time we didn't win that GOLDEN CUP my obsession turned into rage and restructuring of the program over and over. It wasn't until my daughters Coach Courtney & Maddie finally convinced me that it wasn't about that stupid Golden Cup that mattered did I finally calm down my Power Hungry fight. Another example of a power hungry coach would be the one who puts the athletes physical safety at the back of their minds and will risk that member to get even more injured. This happens more often then you will want to admit! How many times has an athlete refused to sit out or let the coach know they are injured and a coach will turn a blind eye to what their gut instinct will tell them that kid should not be risking their health for this win. The POWER HUNGRY COACH will also be the big wolf in sheep's clothing who is out on the hunt to recruit and what infamously coined as COACH POACHING! The POWER HUNGRY COACH has no ethics when it comes to gaining that WIN. They will cheat and place their athletes or dancers in a younger division, fudging their birth dates for registration, will allow them to dance down in technical ability simply for that WIN. The POWER HUNGRY COACH will also make you feel like you will never be able to find a future in your field without their support. Sometimes they will even sabotage an audition, recruitment's or college futures for those who question or challenge the POWER HUNGRY COACH.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU FIND YOURSELF UNDERNEATH THE POWER HUNGRY COACH? First of all I have to say from experience there are good things to a coach who wants to win beyond expectations. They will push all their athletes to their best potential and they tend to be the best motivators. That's why many members and parents tend to have a love / hate relationship with the POWER HUNGRY COACH. Especially if that coach is an award winning one. I found myself playing under many of those coaches in my years of playing basketball. The one that struck me the most though was the coach that melted down at the championship playoff game when their superstar athlete could not physically finish the game no matter how much tape and ice they slapped on my team-mate. Instead of that coach rising to the top and saving the day by relying on her other players to swoop up and finish the course so to speak as a team she threw in the towel and for me that was the last time I ever played for her as a team player and totally turned my strategy into gaining what I could for myself. The next season I started playing for outside leagues, found private coaches, joined an AAU team, went to camps, clinics and eventually moved schools. This refocus on myself helped me to not get wrapped up in that thought of Failing for her desires it aligned me into understanding the most important person to not fail was myself. I was always raised to be a team player and that team comes first. However; if you find yourself under a POWER HUNGRY COACH be guarded and keep your distance from what could be their undoing if they don't handle grabbing that win they want so bad no matter what the costs maybe to you, your team or your future. No matter what my coach thought of me or wanted to destroy for me by not toeing the line with her POWER HUNGRY WIN game plan. I had created my own reputation with other coaches, found my own voice and my own path that didn't make me feel like I couldn't do it without her. I guess that's why I'm so thankful for the experience I had because when I catch myself going into that WIN WIN WIN mentality I go back to my own experiences and I check myself to remember the biggest win is not what can hang in our studio or dust up on our shelves. It's what we give to all our kids on all our levels. That's why you see me tear up and cry when I see the first year dancer or the veteran dancer achieving so many personal wins. What's the best is when these kids do this as a TEAM - OMG! That's the greatest win! Better than any stupid Golden Cup would have done for me or my kids.