Ahhhhh…. JEALOUSY! That wonderful, heartwarming, human emotion that simply brings out the best in all of us! While you will see this acted out with both sexes, it is far more prevalent among female athletes, especially those between the ages of 11 and 17.
You know the story: Girl has a lot of “friends” on the team when she is just average, talent-wise. However, should girl get bitten by the sports passion bug and find herself in love with the sport, an interesting phenomenon develops. Girl’s love of sport causes her to work hard to improve. Because of this hard work, she actually begins to get better. Her improvement leads to success and this success causes girl to stand out on the team, above and beyond her teammates.
Enter the “small-minded, nasty people”: Suddenly girl is no longer just one of the crowd! Girl is now labeled by coach and others as a kid with potential, a star, someone who, by her efforts and accomplishments, stands above those around her. Now, for some “strange” reason, girl’s “friends” are no longer so friendly. They call girl “stuck up”, “conceited,” “full of herself,” (even if these behaviors have never been displayed). They stop inviting girl to parties and sleep-overs. They ignore girl at practice, talk behind her back and make nasty comments to her face. In extreme cases, (with more disturbed “friends”), they even deliberately try to injure her!
These jealousy-driven “teammates” use social and emotional blackmail in an attempt to get girl to “cease and desist!” Their message is simple and simple-minded: “Because you are improving and getting better than us, we will make your life totally miserable until you agree to stop excelling and join us in our mediocrity. We will only be your friend again when you stop trying to excel because, by excelling, you are directly hurting us!”
Unfortunately the above scenario is all too common across a lot of sports today. If you are the mother or father of a daughter, if you are the coach of young women, then you should be appropriately horrified by this situation and therefore committed to doing everything in your power to put an emphatic end to it! There should be absolutely no room for this kind of petty, despicable behavior in any educational setting for young women… ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM!
First off, parents who encourage this win-lose mentality in their children, (If a teammate beats you, then this is a terrible thing, their win directly hurts you and therefore the teammate becomes the enemy) terribly limit their children’s emotional and athletic development, sabotaging their learning and ultimately undermining their performance. These parents make winning and losing too important, putting far too much pressure on their kids. This kind of pressure to win at all costs drives the jealous, mean-spirited things that these kids say and do to their higher excelling teammates.
Let’s also not forget that teaching kids this small-minded, selfish view of the world is to emotionally cripple them for life! Why? You are teaching your girl that it is dangerous to compete and excel, to be good at anything because your successes won’t be celebrated or welcomed by those around you! Don’t think that females in our society already have enough of this crazy garbage to deal with coming from the media and insecure males without having to put up with it from members of their own sex? Furthermore, by promoting these “lessons” you are also teaching your kids to be incredibly selfish and lousy teammates! What kind of an education is this to give to your daughters?
As a parent, you should encourage your children to compete fair and square, to be good sports. You should teach them that hard work pays off and that it is OK to have others excel, that this in NO WAY will limit YOU! You should teach them to be happy for others’ successes and to use friends and teammates successes as a source of personal motivation to work even harder! This is teaching them a win-win mentality to life rather than the small minded, self-limiting, win-lose mindset.
Furthermore, as a PARENT YOU SHOULD BE READY TO SET VERY CLEAR LIMITS WHENEVER YOUR KIDS DISPLAY THIS PETTY, JEALOUSY DRIVEN, MEAN-SPIRITED BEHAVIOR! Simply put, it’s your job to STOP IT IMMEDIATELY! And might I add, if you as a mother are threatened by your daughter’s teammates’ successes, DON’T ACT YOUR OWN JEALOUSY FEELINGS OUT ON YOUR DAUGHTER! Do not try to get her to focus on and beat her teammates. Instead, go find a professional to chat with who will help you develop a healthy perspective on this issue!
As a coach, you want to have a very clear, ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for this kind of “team-busting” behavior on your squad. You want to make it YOUR BUSINESS whenever you see or hear about this kind of behavior going on on your team. If you let it continue by ignoring it or kidding yourself into believing that it’s not your job, then you are reinforcing the message that it is NOT SAFE to excel on your own team! That kind of message completely sabotages your main work as a coach! It is your job to create a safe environment for every girl to compete and excel to their fullest potential!
There should be no room for this kind of mean, small-minded behavior and THE VERY BEST WAY FOR AN ATHLETE TO DEAL WITH THIS VERY HURTFUL TREATMENT FROM OTHERS IS TO WORK EVEN HARDER SO YOU CAN GET EVEN BETTER! Don’t EVER allow your so-called “friends” to emotionally blackmail you into backing down and not going for your dreams! REAL FRIENDS, or certainly anyone worth spending your time with would NEVER ask you to do that!