The dressing room, a place many athletes call their second home, can be an escape from the outside world and make athletes feel a stronger connection with the sport they love. But for some, the dressing room is only a place where they feel belittled.
“It was hard to keep my passion for hockey when I dreaded going to the rink,” said Myf Thomson, a member of the St. Thomas women’s hockey team.
Growing up in Ottawa, Thomson faced bullying at the rink during her teenage years.
“It is okay if it’s your good friends teasing you and making snarky remarks, but the people that picked on me weren’t my good friends.”
Constantly being put down and picked on by a group of eight of her teammates, she decided to leave the organization to join a new team outside of Ottawa.
“Once you have a clique, it is easier to victimize someone else on the team because they know that people have their backs,” Thomson said.
With many personality types on the team of 20, cliques can be inevitable. Being excluded from the cliques was one of the ways Thomson felt victimized.
The bullying that takes place in women’s dressing rooms is often much different than in men’s. In women’s rooms, bullying is not so much physical, but verbal and psychological. In many cases, rude comments are said behind the victim’s backs and sometimes to their faces.
Peter Murphy, coach of the St. Thomas women’s hockey team, said male coaches do not have as much access to a women’s team as they would when coaching men. Male coaches cannot enter dressing rooms whenever they want. So often times the coaches don’t see what is happening.
“There could have been times, where I have had a player bullied and not known. I don’t know what happens behind the closed door to the dressing room.”
Katie Brewster, captain of the St. Thomas women’s hockey team, said in midget hockey, she witnessed cliques victimize other teammates. Her view of bullying is the same as Thomson’s. They both agreed the biggest problem is people ganging up to diminish an individual.
“Competition and jealousy within the girls can be the leading factor to the cliques forming.”
Brewster said it’s difficult to stop people from bullying, especially when it’s a teammate, but it’s something that has to be done.
“Sometimes the right decisions can be the hardest decisions,” Brewster said. “It is hard to solve bullying in the dressing room because you don’t want to be responsible for causing a tide within the team chemistry … but if someone is being bullied, standing up for them is the right thing to do.”
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