I was bullied as a teenager. A group of mean girls decided to make bully bait out of me in grade seven for no other reason than they were all trying to impress their group leader and out-do themselves to see who could be the meanest towards me. I was the perfect target, a shy, socially awkward and slightly overweight 13 year old. Mostly the bullying was was limited to verbal abuse and exclusion from activities and it was especially difficult to bear since in previous years, several of these girls had been my best friends. One day the taunting became so cruel and vicious that all I could do was stand in the school yard sobbing, eventually I found myself in the principal’s office having to explain why I was not in class, the principal was no help whatsoever, in his opinion I had brought the bullying on myself and castigated me for not getting along better with my class mates. I was too ashamed to ever say anything to my parents and suffered in silence for the rest of the year. Fortunately the following year I changed schools but the damage had been done and I spent my high school years avoiding people as much as possible except for one friend who I remain friends with to this day.
The only activities that kept me sane during this time were ice skating and ballet. So when I saw Gabrielle Daleman’s video I was touched beyond measure by her story, Gabby is currently Canadian Senior Women’s Silver medalist and World’s bronze medalist, she is a high energy powerhouse skater and I fell in love with when she moved up to senior in 2013. She is a former gymnast who just explodes off the ice when she jumps…and is clearly loving every minute of it. Like me, figure skating and gymnastics were her haven.
Sadly the figure skating world is not immune to bullying, they are plenty of stories of on- and off ice bullying by skaters and sometimes the parents of skaters, I’ve also heard plenty of stories of adult figure skaters being mocked for their efforts. I have a not so cherished memory of a club official at my former skating club who took great pains to make it clear that she felt I and all adult ice skaters were embarrassing to watch and that adult competitions were a joke.
I left that club and found two different training sites where the administration made very clear that bullying was not acceptable and indeed did ask one skater to leave as she was extremely rude to both skaters and coaches when she was on the ice, the end result is that we have skaters of all ages doing what we love and even better, cheering for each other!
Sometimes the bullying is silent such as when a skater continually cuts people off, repeatedly plays her music or has a melt down when someone gets in her way, and yes adults are not immune to this behavior either!
What can we do as adult figure skaters to prevent bullying? Depends. Sometimes advising the management helps. Possibly confronting the bully quietly and privately. Perhaps speak with the coach…although sometimes the coach is part of the problem.
What are some ways to prevent bullying at skating? Have you ever witnessed it, how was it resolved? Please share your stories!