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Texas 91-0 Football Loss Isn’t Bullying


Demoralizing football loss isn’t bullying says STARS CEO and International Bullying Prevention Association President Rodger Dinwiddie in this column. 

(4) Rodger
Demoralizing football loss isn’t bullying says STARS CEO Rodger Dinwiddie, also current president, International Bullying Prevention Association.

Sports Illustrated Wire reports “a parent of a Texas high school football player whose team ended up on the wrong end of a 91-0 rout has filed a bullying report against the winning team’s head coach, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.”  It’s important opportunity during October’s national Bullying Prevention Month to make sure sad and unfortunate situations aren’t elevated into the category of bullying; and, this loss does not meet the conditions and definition of bullying.

In a recent Sunday Tennessean guest column, I made the point it is imperative that we all understand the nature of what bullying is and what it is not. The term “bullying” has become overused in our culture. Many acts often referred to as bullying, are in fact normal acts of discomfort that each of us will experience in our lives. Labeling normal peer conflicts and minor level acts of normal childhood struggles as bullying is a gross misrepresentation of the term and minimizes the impact that bullying has on those who truly experience the trauma associated with intentional, repetitive, and power imbalanced acts that define what bullying is really all about.

Yes, it was demoralizing and a horrible sports moment to suffer a 91-0 loss. However, just as trademarked words like Kleenex and Xerox have become standard terms for tissue and copying, we cannot allow instances of public, traumatic moments to be incorrectly identified, especially in our legal system, as bullying.

As reported, the coach had his third string playing by half time and called no time outs in the second half. Was there another solution to prevent this kind of public demoralization of the young players? Perhaps, but, at the end of the day, sportsmanship is an entirely different issue than bullying and the parents of these players will have to search for life lessons to remind them that failing to score does not make them sports failures.

Here’s a short video we produced about what bullying is and isn’t.

As president of the International Bullying Prevention Association, at our annual conference in November being held in Nashville,  I will be leading a discussion of an empathy gap our nation is experiencing as reported in a recent Kellogg School study. Loran Nordgren, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations, reminds us, “People fail to understand the consequences of the social trauma experienced by victims of bullying, teasing and ostracism, and that this empathy gap can be devastating because it means victims often do not get the support, intervention or advocacy they need.”

Moments where bullying is misidentified by well-meaning parents are an opportunity for us to discuss the larger issues at hand in our nation. If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, please contact us today for assistance. STARS works with youth, schools and our communities daily on these and many other important  issues impacting the social and emotional well-being of our youth.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.