If you’re a college football fan, you know that at a certain midwest university it’s tradition for the players to hit this sign before they run onto the field. These words and this tradition reminds players to be their best. Show leadership on the field. Take your team to victory.

That type of leadership doesn’t start in college. Kids learn very early on what leadership is all about. Some learn to lead by creating an imbalance of power while others learn to lead by example and have the interests of the whole “team” at heart. We all want our kids to be leaders but which kind? The first type leaves a trail of pain while the other empowers.

When bullying behavior is not corrected, kids learn that creating an imbalance of power by fear is the quickest way to get other kids to follow. When kids are corrected and told about basic right and wrong, they most often build the skills to play like a champion even in the schoolyard.

A champion, even at an early age, can affect the social climate of a classroom. A good leader — even as a pee wee — can help create an inclusive, supportive atmosphere. A champion is someone who people WANT to be around, whether it’s playing in the schoolyard or in a stadium.

So coaches, i.e. parents and teachers, know your players — and don’t let them get away with bullying their peers.

The Jean M. Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse and School Violence was recently established at the University of Buffalo. It was made possible by Dr. Alberti who, at one time, was a fifth grade teacher. She became interested in peer abuse after realizing how classrooms were changing. Congratulations Dr. Alberti for playing like a champion and creating this center. Here’s some information from their first symposium in April. Hope it’s helpful.

How ironic that the football team at the university in the midwest mentioned above are known as the Fight’in Irish. Since they’re rivals to my favorite team, I’d rather keep it at that.