We’ve talked about the signs of bullying, but another equally important matter is how to not become a bully when you’re the captain and must lead your cheer squad. To be a leader, you must be able to motivate your team to achieve their goals. When those goals aren’t met or you experience a loss or mistake, you, as a captain, should be honest and open about improving skills, but not be negative and critical. Everyone is disappointed about a loss or mistake; you don’t need to remind them. Instead, focus on how those mistakes can be prevented next time and what should be improved. As a captain, your attitude is a reflection of the entire squad! That means if they’re not spirited or positive, you probably aren’t either. It’s hard after a long day of practice or bad performance but it’s up to you to keep your head up and inspire your squad to do the same. Think of goals other than winning that you may have accomplished, like teamwork or supporting one another. If you can, talk with your coach about individual goals certain teammates can reach for, like higher jumps or louder cheers. This way, in the event of a loss, your team can still find the positives. The biggest differences between a leader and a bully are respect and fairness. A leader respects her teammates and doesn’t treat them as if they were beneath her. A bully assumes that being a leader means ultimate rule and often time abuses her power. A leader, on the other hand, provides teammates with feedback instead of criticism, support instead of embarrassment, and tough love instead of cruelty. There is a big difference between constructive criticism and bullying. Don’t think that the only way you can avoid being a bully is to never critique a team member. While it can be difficult to give (especially to a friend), constructive criticism is a necessity. It helps one improve skills and understand what needs improvement. If you’re nervous about doling out criticism, balance it with a few honest compliments. Mention something that she is doing well or visibly improving on. By adding in positives, constructive criticism will come across more as helpful and less…well, critical. Remember, you may have to speak with some team members differently from others. Some girls take criticism well, while others don’t. As you continue leading, you’ll learn the differences between your teammates and know how to handle them individually when needed. What are your tips for captains?