When it comes to stopping bullies, it takes a village...well, a team. That includes the coaches. So I'm going to talk to all the coaches out there and share with you a few ways to help make your practices--and hopefully your program--a "no bully zone."

Give clear expectations
From the beginning of the season make it clear that you won't stand for bully behavior. Make it a part of your handbook and discipline procedures, which includes putting down concrete consequences. This way every person who thinks about joining your team and their parents will be aware on some level of your expectations.

Throughout the year, you can reinforce these standards through character lessons, drawing attention to good behavior, and disciplining bad behavior.

Build a positive team culture
A team's culture is what defines its success. What does your team value? Is it respect? Service? Excellence? As the coach and leader, you can decide what your values are then work to create an environment that pushes those characteristics to the forefront.

If you focus on team-building and your values (especially those that foster respect and a family atmosphere), you will be building a team of good human beings and not just good cheerleaders.

Be proactive
Don't wait until someone has crossed that fine line you've drawn in the sand to deal with potential issues. If you see conflict or gossip starting to rise within your group, be proactive to resolve the them with the individuals involved.

Start with just listening to them and getting a sense of what the real problem is. Then take steps to address the conflict immediately, involve parents if it's serious, and provide a resolution. Lastly, don't forget to follow up. Make sure that behavior is actually being changed. If it's not, then you can take more drastic action.

Empower your cheerleaders
Today there are more ways to bully someone than ever before. It doesn't just happen in school hallways anymore. You've got text messages, Facebook, and many other avenues for emotionally attacking someone, which makes it impossible for you to monitor all of them.

So you need to empower your leaders and cheerleaders to take a stand for their teammates. It would help to create a safe way for individuals to report bullies on the team, especially for those who are being bullied.

Maybe it's through a text message, email, or staying after practice. Whichever methods of communication you choose, keep consistent "office hours" through them for your cheerleaders to report whatever they think needs to be addressed. You may not have to follow up on every single one, but you should look into them all so your cheerleaders know you mean business.

Love your cheerleaders
One of the greatest things you can do to keep bullies at bay is to love and encourage your team. There's an old saying, "Hurt people hurt people." If you make it your job to make everyone on your team feel loved and valued, then you'll have fewer bullies to worry about.

You may feel helpless when it comes to managing bully behavior, but you don't have to. The truth is that, as a coach, you have tremendous power over the cheerleading program's environment.

Be intentional about the community your create through your cheerleading program, and always lead by example. If you stand up against bullying everyone else feels the power to do it too.