You know banishing bullying of any kind from your team is vital. You can't perform well, provide a good experience for your team, and just have an all-around good season with that kind of extra noise weighing you down. But how do you keep negativity from seeping into your team? Follow these four steps:

  1. Set a no tolerance policy. Be clear about what you consider to be off-limits. Explain emotional bullying to your team. Let them know gossip and spreading rumors won't be tolerated, nor will outright bullying.

  2. Enforce your policies. Rules are just good ideas unless there is actually a consequence for breaking them. Make it clear that you mean business and that while you don't expect anyone on your team to participate in bullying of any kind, anyone who does will be off the team. You won't tolerate it.

  3. Educate your team. Share news stories of bullying to your cheerleaders so they know what to look out for. Stories of hazing incidents are far too common. Let your team members know you expect them to be inclusive and welcoming to new cheerleaders and that making new teammates go through an initiation ritual is unacceptable. Make sure they know you consider spreading negativity in any way, like gossiping about other teammates, to be a form of bullying. Share stories of sportsmanship with them, too. Emphasizing positive actions is the best way to ensure you won't have to deal with negative ones.

  4. Focus on team bonding. Plan some team-building activities for cheer camp. Get together as a team outside of practice when possible to further establish friendships and trust between teammates. This may be hard to do during busier parts of the year, but try to find time for a team pizza party or movie night.

As a cheer coach, your top priorities are keeping your team safe and fostering an environment where they can have a good cheerleading experience. Performing well and winning competitions is important, but it's the overall experience that will stick with your cheerleaders for the rest of their lives. Help make it a good one by following the above steps to banish negativity from your squad! 

How do you keep bullying off your cheer squad?