Dear sports coach, don't look away, talk to your boys
This year the focus of Independent Media's annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to sport coaches.
Dear sports coaches
- Do you use toxic language that promotes or perpetuates disrespect towards women and girls?
- Do you turn a blind eye to incidents of discrimination or violence among your players that happen off the field?
- Do you single out a person’s gender or sexual orientation when it is irrelevant?
- Do you use gender as an insult, for example: “You kick like a girl”?
- Do you brag or joke about sexual exploits, whether real or imagined?
- When you hear some of your players bragging or joking about sexual exploits, do you let it ride because “boys will be boys”?
- Do you allow your players to engage in lewd or disrespectful behaviour when they are off the field, for example, catcalling, whistling or sexual innuendo?
- Do you use gender negative expressions or toxic language with your players that make them feel “less than” – for example, “Man up!” or “Don’t be a sissy”?
- Do you use harsh criticism or name-calling to keep control during practice sessions or game time?
- Do you use intimidating behaviour when dealing with your players or opponents, such as making verbal threats, punching walls or kicking objects?
Athletes often describe their coaches as parent figures and friends. Players look to their sporting coaches for leadership, guidance and instruction. They listen to them; they respect their position and are accustomed to following their instructions.
But a coach also has power and influence beyond the pitch.
While working with boys in practice drills and during matches, coaches can teach respect, teamwork, tolerance and integrity.
What coaches do and say can change the discriminatory attitudes and damaging behaviours that are at the core of physical violence and abuse. In thousands of “teachable moments” with boys and young men, coaches have the chance to do more than teach techniques, tactics or the rules of the game.
But is everyone playing ball? Are coaches doing enough and playing their role in nurturing non-violence in boys and young men?
Are they doing enough to stop male toxic behaviour by helping their players build healthy relationships with teammates, friends, families, opponents, referees and fans, and by promoting a non-violent environment on and off the playing field?
As a coach, if you ticked any of the questions above, it’s time to start doing things differently. It’s time to #talk2yourboys.
Take the coaches pledge below:
As your coach I pledge to guide you in developing your talent as well as shaping your character, so that you become a true sports gentleman.
I make the pledge because I know that sport has the power to break the barriers of many forms of discrimination and prejudices in our world.
Becoming a great sportsman will be of little value if people don’t look up to you as a role model or hero, because of your poor attitude towards others, women and girls in particular.
I pledge to teach you that being mean to girls or making jokes about girls because of their gender is disrespectful and unkind, and it brings you no glory.
I pledge to correct you if you use gender stereotypes or mock women or LGBTQI+ people.
Making fun of those sports more favoured by girls is not on, because it is not your place to decide what sport other learners enjoy.
I want you to know that as much as the sport we enjoy is important, it cannot be a playground where toxic masculinity is allowed to flourish, and I will do my best to lead by example in this regard.
I pledge to show you, through my own words and actions, that respectable men don’t need to insult women or girls to get their attention or impress anyone.
I pledge to guide you in understanding that as sportsmen you can be a positive example to your peers simply by earning their respect, and that of girls.
Finally, I pledge to give you support if you ever experience violence, bullying or abuse.
* GET INVOLVED! Share your thoughts on toxic masculinity and how it affects our society via Whatsapp on 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.