SportsBeat 'bullying' thanks to basketball. The story of a miss

Beat ‘bullying’ thanks to basketball. The story of a miss

No, they are not children’s things, and Koldo Casla, co-author of the first Amnesty International report on bullying in Spain, says that the astonishing validity of that excuse between parents and teachers is one of the main culprits that only 4% of the cases of harassment are reported to the educational institution. And, he says, other mistakes are made just as serious with respect to the one known as bullying: “It is not a problem between individuals, between an aggressor and a victim, which is solved by putting peace between them or by punishing the bad: a school is a projection of society, and the social approach is the only appropriate one ”, explains Casla. Sofía del Prado suffered from it; her childhood was marked by peers who emptied her or insulted her. His height was an embarrassment to her, a trauma. Until basketball broke into his life. And, after what she won on the court (friends, values, self-confidence), came fashion, the catwalks and the opportunity to represent Spain in the 2017 Miss Universe pageant.

Because of his childhood he does not keep exactly good memories. At her school in Villarrobledo (Albacete), Sofía del Prado was put aside by the rest of the class. First was exclusion; then the insults: four feet, giraffe. Del Prado says that she used to come home sobbing and say to her mother: “Mommy, I don’t want to be tall …”. At the age of 12, he was around eighty feet. Her parents told the teachers what Sofia suffered at the center, but they hid behind the mantra quoted by Casla: children’s things. Meanwhile, Sofía fantasized about leaving, about going to another school.

Sofía del Prado during a game with her basketball team from Villarrobledo (Albacete).

He grew up and entered the institute. He believed that it would be a new opportunity, a beginning, tabula rasa. “But it dragged too much; They saw me weak and I became easy prey. First of ESO was a horror. I didn’t want to go out, they threatened me… ”Del Prado remembers one day when, sitting at the desk, a group of classmates began to yell at her because of the kind of ponytail she had made that morning, with various rubber bands. “What are you wearing in your hair, sausages?” Each one broke out with a different occurrence, to which one more hurtful, and she, who wanted to respond and vent, intimidated, became “small.” It’s just a trivial example, she says, of what led her to, this time, request a change of center. The director suspected that something was happening – Sofia had preferred to keep quiet and invent a pretext to leave – and she got involved enough to temporarily calm the waters. Just for a few weeks. The solution, however, came from elsewhere.

He signed up for the basketball team.

There, what she had always observed as a defect became a virtue: her height made her valuable. And he also played well! She got to be called up with the Castilla la Mancha team, although her reason for persevering was another: she had a good time training with her friends. There he found a group of girls who supported each other, in which the normal thing was to strive for the one next to him. “I, of course, was quite shy. But there was such good vibes that they soon asked me to go out with them outside of training as well. When I was 14 or 15 years old, the panorama changed a lot. There was high school, yes, but on weekends we traveled to play games outside, and on those bus trips we had such a good time. Suddenly, I felt part of something. They are the ones who, until today, have also accompanied Sofía in her successes.

Her mother had a clothing store, she was always interested in trends (hence, she says, that ponytail that her classmates punished her for). “Discipline, everything I learned playing basketball so as not to give up, has also given me a lot in the world of fashion and beauty pageants. That’s how I got to where I got, to represent Spain in Miss Universe ”. Sofía began by prevailing in a local beauty pageant, in Villarrobledo. She moved to Madrid, to study at the University, and, at that moment, having left her trauma with height behind, the little jobs in fashion were her way of making a living. Until the jump to the catwalk and the main competitions arrived.

Sofía del Prado during the Miss Universe pageant, in which she represented Spain, remaining among the 10 finalists.
Sofía del Prado during the Miss Universe pageant, in which she represented Spain, remaining among the 10 finalists.

“The bullying it arises from society’s own intolerance and inequalities “, Casla stresses, adding that” the best way to prevent its appearance is to provide children with mechanisms to help each other equally. ” Investigations such as those of Casla himself or his colleague Cristina del Barrio seem to attest to this. Between 2007 and 2009 schools in England, Italy and Spain set out to train students so that they knew how to react when they witnessed bullying in any of its forms, so that they understood how to help and empathize with the victim. It worked. Coexistence improved. Something similar was done by Amnesty International for its study in the 2017/2018 academic year in 140 primary and secondary schools in Extremadura, 23% of all centers in the region. And the experience satisfied students and teachers, who now demand more training in this area.

Sport to combat bullying

Juan Calmaestra is a professor of Coexistence Psychology at the University of Córdoba, one of the institutions that has spent the longest time investigating the phenomenon of bullying. When he answers the phone, he is finishing editing material for the Barça Foundation. With them, he has been committed to one goal for four years: to eradicate bullying from the classrooms. The first two were for study, how will we do what we want ?; In the last two courses, the method they conceived proved useful and has been able to be put into practice in schools throughout Catalonia. “Ten started. When the model was validated, about 100 signed up, and 170 centers are already participating in this course ”, says Calmaestra.

“Neuroscience has taught us that what does not excite you does not make you learn”

Juan Calmaestra

His strategy to end bullying is based above all on educating those who would normally be mere bystanders, those who would observe the assault without doing anything. How? “We do work sessions, consisting of dramatized games, with students from 1st to 6th grade of primary school during Art Education, Tutoring and, especially, Physical Education lessons”. Calmaestra highlights the importance of this last subject for many reasons: “because sport makes you gain self-esteem, because improving your motor conditions gives you confidence, because practicing sports reduces anxiety, makes you more resilient, improves your social adaptability …” The list is endless, and sports outside of school also play a crucial role. For a simple cause: if the classroom environment is suffocating, it helps to cope with having another alternative, the basketball team, the soccer team, whatever it is, where that child feels supported.

An example of their methods in class: they provoke situations of blatant injustice, they put 24 students to throw balls at a single classmate, who must try to clear them all; And they continue like this until the one who must defend himself from so much ball explodes and says: Profe, this is unfair, they are all against me! Then, they make them understand how analogous that situation is to that of the bullying: someone who attacks with the approval or culpable inaction of the majority and one who suffers.

“Neuroscience has taught us that what does not excite you does not make you learn,” says Calmaestra. Only a psychoeducational approach is possible under these circumstances, and teachers should not lose sight of this, who truly deal with bullying on a daily basis. “The pity is that they do not have compulsory training in this regard. Many of those who come to my optional courses do it in their free time, they are rural teachers who finish at nine at night and still have an hour’s drive back home from Córdoba, after a day that began to eight. Few professions are more vocational than that of teacher ”.