Ask TBP: What to do About Bullying in the Dugout

Here’s the latest post in our series Ask Travel Ball Parents. Last week we talked about the right time to specialize in one position. This week’s topic is something every parent dreads and wishes their kids could avoid altogether. Bullying! Keep reading to see what our panel of sports moms and dads have to say about dealing with a dugout bully.

 

“A new hotshot ballplayer just joined the 11U team that my son has been on for two years. He’s cocky and arrogant and makes snide comments about my son being slow and makes fun of him any time he makes an error. My kid isn’t the best one on the team but he’s dependable and consistent. The new player’s remarks really bother him. Since he’s a whole head taller than the bully, I’ve told him to punch the kid next time he says something. My wife says “no, let the coach handle it.” I’ve always thought kids should settle their own battles, but promoting fighting in the dugout might not make me look like ‘parent of the year.'”–Fed Up Dad

 

Your kid needs to beat him up.  Make sure a crowd is watching.  He should also start it.  Have your kid go up to the bully and push him as hard as he can.  If the bully pushes back then tell your kid to ball his fist up tight and aim for his nose. When you drop your kid off at the next practice.  Make sure to remind him to go pick a fight.  Also tell him: “I better be getting some bad reports from your coach about your behavior when I pick you up”. If for some odd reason the bully does beat your kid up.  Then tell your kid that he needs to go make him his friend.–Alton Mercer, softball dad, pro wrestler, Madison, GA

danielle wheelerViolence is never the answer.  However, I do agree that the boys should have the opportunity to handle it themselves first.  I would encourage your son to address the bully in a more diplomatic way than a punch.  If your son isn’t comfortable doing that… you need to figure out why.  If his reasons are valid, then consider asking the coach for help and support or even contacting the bully’s parents directly.  If his reason’s aren’t valid, then help your son build the confidence needed to take care of it.  But by no means should this be allowed to continue.  It is cancerous to the team and unfair to your son. —Danielle Wheeler, baseball mom, Glen Allen, VA

 

Navigating Travel Baseball Book CoverWhere is the coach, and why is he letting this happen?  Any coach worth his salt knows that you cannot have one player chastising another player, especially not on the field.  This is a TEAM sport, for crying out loud.  Everybody makes mistakes and errors, and a coach must teach players discipline not to yell out and openly criticize another player.  The coach himself needs this discipline.  When the boys get older, natural leaders will rise to help run the team, and quite often they will take a player aside when there is a performance issue on the field.  That is acceptable and necessary.  But this is completely different than what you describe. And at 11U, it is all on the coach to handle this.  As a parent, it is your job to make sure the coach aware of the situation, and ask him to put a stop to the bullying.–Tony Midea, baseball dad, veteran coach and author of the book, Navigating Travel Baseball-7U to 14U


11902323_10207474547291621_1964242357481919926_nI answer this as a MOM – Punch him! The same thing happened to my son when he was on an 11U team (what’s up with hostile 11 year olds?) and we finally walked over to the dugout and said out loud ” Son, if he does that again you have our permission to punch him in the face.”  It stopped immediately.  Sincerely – fellow parent of the year! :-)–Stephanie Boarman, baseball mom, Chesterfield, VA


lisa santa ritaWhile we think coaches see/hear everything….reality is they don’t.  The head coach is focused on the game. And at 11U, there shouldn’t need to be a dugout parent.  The head coach may not know this is going on.  If that is the case, as parents mention it to the coach and ask him to keep an ear out so he can hear it and address it.  I would expect him to make an example of this player.  So what if he’s a hotshot and he doesn’t like it or his parents don’t like it! Baseball is a very disciplined sport and you are building ball players as well as good charactered young men.  If they don’t like the head coach addressing this kind of issue, then maybe they are on the wrong team.  One player does not make a team.  Sit him out if he continues, make him run at practice, make him apologize to the entire team about his behavior, not just the one player. Because, honestly, if that is happening in the dugout, it is a distraction to everyone.  If you don’t want the coach addressing your kid about his behavior, then handle your kid!  As for punching him the next time he does it….well I wouldn’t say that’s the best way to handle the situation.  Now if that hot shot lays a hand on your kid, well then its fair game.  Good luck…..Lisa SantaRita, baseball mom, Houston, TX


Usually when a child asks for help in a bullying situation, it’s a signal that they aren’t able to Liz Blankssolve the problem themselves and need your help to resolve it.  That may mean coaching him on how to interact with the bully, or getting the bully’s parents and the coach involved.  I suspect that this isn’t the first time this player has bullied his fellow players but it definitely needs to stop before it erodes the confidence of the team and the individual players.  He is trying to elevate himself to be above everyone on the team by undermining them in any way he can with his negativity, and the inaction of the coach and parents just encourages the bullying behavior.

There is a difference between “boys will be boys” and bullying. And sometimes it takes the adults to step in and diffuse the situation before it gets worse.  Most of the time, bullies will stop the behavior when they are confronted.  I would hate to see your son start dreading playing baseball because of one member of the team.  Step in now, and hopefully it will resolve quickly.  Good luck!  —Liz Blanks, baseball mom, VA


You can’t have your kid punch another kid, but maybe suggesting that kid getting a taste of his rob monacoown medicine may not be awful. Although, I can tell you, that kind of stuff will turn the dugout into a mess. The other kids don’t deserve that and neither does the coach.
If I’m you, I speak to the coach about it. Mention that it’s bad sportsmanship and you don’t approve. Ask the coach to keep an eye out. No one’s in trouble here. You’re just being cautious, not only for your son, but for the team’s chemistry.  Maybe even have a conversation with the parents. You may not know them, but try to get to know them because of the situation.
The other thing you need to keep in the back of your mind is this is baseball, and while the hot shot kid may not be nice, it happens throughout people’s lives. ‎Not everyone is nice.  Your son needs to be mentally tough, as hard as it is to explain to your son. Sometimes kids in sports just need to deal and let their talent do the work.
That being said, if that hot shot kid realizes he’s not getting to your son mentally and starts to get aggressive, maybe even a push or put hands on your son, all bets are off!  A shiner never hurt anyone at that point. Your son can only take so much abuse.   That’s the absolute LAST resort. —Rob Monaco, baseball dad, Little League coach and commissioner, Bergen County, NJ

If you’re still reading, here’s the background story on why Alton said that the boy should pick a fight with the bully. While many of you will undoubtedly disagree with this approach, I wholeheartedly believe that kids need to stand up for themselves. And sometimes picking a fight with a bully is a darn good way to take care of things.

When my son Gaines was in 1st grade, he and my daughter, Sarah Ellen attended this summer day camp at the rec department.
On the 3rd morning I was getting Gaines ready to go.  With tears in his eyes, he started pitching a fit.
“I don’t want to go Daddy!”  “It’s not fun Daddy!” “Please don’t make me go again!”  I just couldn’t understand what was so bad.  Sarah Ellen loved the camp and playing games with other kids should be something Gaines would enjoy.
Sarah Ellen heard all the begging and told me what was really happening.  Turned out one of the kids was bullying Gaines.  Picking on him during the basketball games (hitting in the head with the ball).  Wouldn’t let him sit with the group during snack time.  I was so heartbroken.
I went back into Gaines’ bedroom and he confessed to getting bullied.  I knew who the year older bully was and his parents.  
I remember my speech like it was yesterday.  “Gaines, I know that kid and you can whip his ass.  As soon as you get there, I want you to pick a fight.  Go up to him and push him as hard as you can in front of everyone.  If he’s not ready to fight after that, then shove him again, and again, and again.  He will either run away or you’ll beat him up.”  “Okay Daddy.”
Right before I dropped him off.  I offered more pearls of wisdom “if there is a fight…ball your fist up tight, so your hand won’t swell and aim for the nose.” 
I also said very sternly.  “When I pick you up from camp, I better be getting a bad report from your counselor.”
I was a nervous wreck all morning.  Finally 12:00 came and it was time to get the children.  His counselor saw me in the car line and asked me to come inside for a second.  I was so HAPPY. I knew what this was about.  According to the instructor, Gaines actually did exactly what I told him too.
I was one proud Dad.  Gaines was happy and enjoyed camp the rest of the month.  The bully quit coming after the confrontation and we all lived happily ever after.

 

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2 thoughts on “Ask TBP: What to do About Bullying in the Dugout

  • April 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm
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    Reading this brought back some memories of last year when I was coaching an 11u travel team. We had a physically advanced (5’5″ 140 lb) first baseman, who was very aggressive on and off the field both verbally and physically. When the boys were horsing around he was so much bigger and stronger that someone was always getting hurt but worse was his comments to some of the the players. We (myself and the other coach) spoke with the boy’s dad and things seemed to improve for a few weeks, but then it came back with a vengeance it seemed. He started pushing my son around (4’6″ 80lbs) and wanted to critique his play after a tournament that we didn’t do well in. A long talk on the way home, I told my son the only way to solve this is to punch the kid after trying his best to avoid confrontation. Next weekend, he starts again bullying the several of the kids and then it happened. We were hitting, I was sitting on a bucket outside the dugout and here come 5-6 boys telling me my son just bloodied the bully’s nose, several seconds later here comes the bully crying holding his bloody nose and we talked.Me- ” why did he hit you?” Bully – “Because I threw his gear out of the dugout” Me- “Why did you do that?” Bully- “I thought it would be funny” Me- ” Well I guess he didn’t think so”…And with that the bullying stopped.

    Later in the season we had to pick up a couple kids for one tournament and one of those is a kid with average abilities but 100% hustle that we have known for a long time. We got beat badly by a rival team due to several errors by this kid, and after they put us out in elimination, we were having a talk after the game. Walking away my son commented in front of most of the team how if this kid hadn’t made these errors that we would have won. I was so shocked and angry I had to wit until we got to the car and let my wife handle this one. Punishment was this- A spanking, write an apology to the boy and read it in front of the team, and write a 100 word paper on being a teammate and read it to the team..That remedys that situation.

    I am going to have to say try avoiding the kid, and if that doesn’t work and good punch to the nose will

    Reply
    • April 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm
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      What a great story! Good perspectives from both sides of the question. Good for you for keeping your own kid accountable.

      Reply

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