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Ask The Expert: How Can My Teen Handle Locker Room Bullying?

Dear Your Teen:

My family and I recently moved to a new state. My son just started the ninth grade and plays a sport at his new school. We just learned he’s been having a rough time of it. Particularly, he’s been struggling in the locker room, where some boys on the team are picking on him. What do we do now?

Ideas for Dealing with Bullying In Sports

EXPERT | John Mayer, Ph.D.

This situation is bullying, and my advice is to instruct your teenager to deal with this bullying in sport in the same way we teach kids about how to deal with any other kind of bullying. All of our experience and work in the area of bullying teaches us that there are only three actions that actually work to create a bullying resolution. These are:

  1. Ignore.
  2. Don’t React.
  3. Maybe most importantly, tell an adult in charge or nearby.

On the last point, particularly in this situation of locker room bullying, a coach is a very powerful adult in the lives of teenagers. Your teenager may find that asking the coach to intervene in this situation can be very effective. If the coach is not receptive to your teenager, then you should step in and call the coach. If that doesn’t work, go higher up the chain for a bullying resolution. Parental intervention in bullying is important, if a teenager is not able to handle the situation on his or her own.

Help your teenager understand that “snitching” on these bullies is NOT uncool. It will also not hurt his chance to fit in at his new school. Point out other ways for him to do this, beyond the team. He could get involved with extracurricular activities that will allow him to meet other students at the school.

Dr. John Mayer is a leading expert on teens. He is an author, practicing psychologist, consultant and professor. Based in Chicago, IL but parents can access his help and vast resources via his web site,, no matter where they live. 

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