In Gender and Sports, Parents' Role in Youth Sports

So they say that “mean girls REALLY suck!” And I have to admit, t’is true. There’s nothing worse than being on a team and having your own teammates pull that mean girl crap on you. They ignore you, snicker when you walk by, go out of their way to exclude you in their conversations and after practice get-togethers, and do a whole host of other things to make your life a living hell.

Why are mean girls so mean?

It’s mainly a self-esteem issue. Deep down, mean girls don’t feel real good about themselves. They deal with these feelings of personal inadequacy in two ways. First, they surround themselves with other kids who will bolster them up and allow them to feel powerful and at the center of this group. The mean girl is careful to pick other kids who really can’t think for themselves and who are afraid of being targeted and outcast by the mean girl. In this way, the mean girl has some emotional leverage over her “followers.” They don’t dare speak back or stand up to the mean girl because they’re afraid that she may turn on them next.

Second, mean girls manage their low self-esteem by picking one or two people just outside their social circle to scape-goat. If they can make someone else feel really terrible about herself, if they can exclude and mercilessly pick on her, then it makes them feel so much better about themselves. Simply put, the social and interpersonal survival mantra of the mean girl is, When you feel like crap, make others feel even worse and then you’ll feel much better.

The other reason that mean girls are so mean is because they have learned their “petty, nasty craft” at the feet of a master. Behind most mean girls is a parent, usually a mother, who has taught her daughter all the finer points of being small-minded, immature and jealous. Over the years, these mothers directly and indirectly encouraged their daughters to be emotionally immature and petty. They were incapable of setting appropriate behavioral limits and so when their girls acted mean, they passively allowed and even actively reinforced this bad behavior.

An example: A 15 year old swimmer is scapegoated by five girls her age on the senior team. They are angry and resentful of her for one, very basic reason. She is faster than they are! In other words, when they compare themselves to her, they end up feeling badly about themselves!

How do they deal with their feelings of inadequacy? They ignore her in the locker room, whisper loudly behind her back, give her nasty looks and make it a point to let her know when they are having social gatherings that she is of course, not invited to. At one point, this group of immature misfits even had the stupidity to directly confront their more talented teammate and blame her for their not getting their zone cuts that season!

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree! Not at all surprising, several of the mothers of these nasty little girls were quite rude and demeaning to this poor little 15 year old. They too resented her and treated her as if she was the primary reason that their daughters weren’t going to be successful that year! Now if that’s not great role modeling, then I don’t know what is!

I have a very hard time when I hear about the emotional cruelty of preadolescent and adolescent female athletes. However, I absolutely see BRIGHT RED when I hear these stories about nasty, petty, inadequate mothers who condone and collude with this kind of behavior from their daughters, not to mention, actively engaging in it themselves.

To them, I have only one thing to say: GROW UP!


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