Going Too Far? Bullying vs Teasing

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Sydney Williams October 21, 2021 Founders Corner

Motivation Or Going Too Far?

“Hey, Fridge. Next time use your legs.” An older athlete badgers a younger athlete on a team message app. The sport is high school football. The younger athlete, exhausted and noticeably overweight, tripped on his shoelaces during wind sprints at the end of practice.

Coaches and athletes share practice information and post updates on this app. Users often connect one-on-one. Athletes reach out to each other more than to coaches.

In one scenario, the recipient feels hurt. I’m not good enough, he worries. What a complete jerk that guy is.

In another, the recipient shrugs it off. It’s all in good fun, he thinks. I’m gonna lose some weight and keep my cleats tied.

What if, instead, a coach sends the message? Let’s say someone brings the message to a supervisor’s attention. The app doesn’t include supervisors. How does she respond?

Any coach sending such a message could face instant dismissal. Or not. Maybe the athlete welcomes the sobriquet. Maybe the coach and athlete share a fondness for the original name holder in NFL history not-too long ago.

However the athlete receives the message, it demonstrates the need for transparency and accountability. The sender may not intend a negative outcome, but is he considering everything that could transpire?

Informed Decisions

At Stride, we believe in informed decisions. Too often, supervisors, coaches and athletes act without adequate information. Even if they want to weigh consequences, they typically have little to go on beyond assumptions.

How well do coaches know their athletes? How well do athletes know their coaches?

Which are a person’s negative signals, which are positive? Are the right words, the wrong words, and vice versa?

360 degree surveys in Stride supply plenty of data. No user operates in a vacuum.

What about team performance?

Professional athletes mention how they look forward to the off-season when they can choose their friends. Shouldn’t paychecks smooth over their differences? Why do so many teams break down and underperform?

Interpersonal dynamics affect any team situation, which poor communication and decision-making exacerbate.

It’s no different for novice high school teams. Many athletes simply want to be someplace else, and the same for coaches. Parents or school requirements have forced them into an uneasy environment.

The Right Messaging

Figuring out the right messaging could turn a season around. It could change a young person’s outlook on sports.

Novice or elite, the best a team can do is be transparent and align expectations. A coach might organize team meetings, but rarely does anyone have time for regular one-on-one sessions. A coach might send emails, but who reads them?

Stride’s feedback loops establish two-way communication. They provide context. They eliminate messages in bottles—random notes and commentary that people can only explain in assumptions.

On our chat feature, coaches monitor all conversations. Coaches can divide teams by player position and tier (varsity, junior varsity, etc) to create chat rooms, but a coach is always present in any conversation.

The supervisor, who can access any conversation on any team at any time, keeps track of how coaches communicate.

Stride adds context to comments and holds people accountable for what they write down.

One athlete ribbing another could be innocent enough. We offer plenty of background information to judge whether someone is going too far.

Sydney is Stride’s Founder.