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As a coach, you play a vital role in developing a positive and inclusive team culture. That means acting fast to stop bullying.  

Here, we explore bullying and hazing and the benefits of an anti-bullying policy.  


Hazing is a specific type of bullying. It refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them, regardless of that person’s willingness to participate.  

The impact of hazing

Hazing can have a negative psychological impact. The impact can be long lasting depending on the player, the activity, and the environment. Psychological effects of hazing may include: 

  • Depression 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Decrease in confidence
  • Mental illness 

The effects of hazing may result in players feeling they can no longer relate to their teammates, or feeling they need to stop playing altogether. Their work or school and family life may also be impacted as a result.  

All people’s life experiences, beliefs and circumstances are different.  Because of these differences something that one person sees as ‘banter’ may cause harm or offence to another. For this reason, initiation rituals when someone new joins the team shouldn't happen.  


Bullying is the use of aggression with the intention of hurting another person. This may be by an adult towards a child or peer-on-peer abuse. Bullying results in pain and distress to the victim. Bullying can be:  

  • Emotional - being unfriendly, excluding (both emotionally and physically), sending hurtful text messages, tormenting (e.g. hiding football boots/shin guards, threatening gestures). 
  • Physical - pushing, kicking, hitting, punching or any use of violence. 
  • Sexual - unwanted physical contact or sexually abusive comments. 
  • Discriminatory - comments, jokes about or targeted abuse aimed towards disabled people, or homophobic, transphobic, sexist, gendered, racist or faith-based comments. 
  • Verbal - name-calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, teasing. 

Cyberbullying is when a person uses technology, like a mobile phone or the internet (social media, chat rooms, instant messenger) to upset someone deliberately. This could be by posting derogatory abusive comments, videos, or images.  

Bullies often feel anonymous and ‘distanced’ from the incident when it takes place online, and ‘bystanders’ can easily become bullies by forwarding the information. 

All players play better in a positive environment. Coaches have a key part to play in building a positive, inclusive and player-centred team culture. Here are some tools to help: 

An anti-bullying policy

A policy helps manage how you react when bullying occurs and how you prevent it. Encouraging players to talk if they need help is also useful. If someone is being bullied, they should know they can get help.  

Having and promoting an anti-bullying policy is one positive way of demonstrating your club’s commitment to providing an environment where bullying is dealt with promptly and effectively. 

You can use this template (resource 1.6) to get started on creating your own anti-bullying policy. 


A player of any age can experience bullying. This could be from a teammate or member of another team. When this happens, you should implement your own policy and procedures.   

They may be experiencing bullying in another context outside of football. If you become aware of this, you can help them access support. 

The National Bullying Helpline: 0300 323 0169 

Tackling bullying and hazing