Sunday, February 10, 2013

Swearing In Front Of Juniors?

This is a blog post I hope I can get a lot of feedback on, especially from parents of Junior Skaters!

So... one thing I struggle with frequently is my words when coaching Juniors. They know I swear, I know they swear, but there's a social norm that says we're not supposed to do it around each other, or I'm a terrible role model.

But... THEY KNOW I SWEAR ALL THE TIME, just not around them.

This isn't like... a new thing for me. It's who I am! I got kicked out of the Girl Scouts and a church group for young women for swearing. And there were kids in the neighborhood who couldn't play with me because their parents heard me swearing.

Some people think swearing is for the ignorant: not me. I entered college as an English Major with 12 scholarships for writing essays in 1999. (Tied for most scholarships in my graduating class.) I'm educated, I'm articulate, and "fuck" has always been my favorite word.

So, my question is: which is MORE irresponsible:

A) Being less than genuine around the future generation: essentially treating them like they don't need to see the full-on real me.

B) Potentially setting a standard that says: say whatever the fuck you want, even if some people don't like it, potentially disrespecting parents of Juniors.

I'm not giving advice here, I'm asking for help! I need insight. Because the truth is that I consider coaching impressionable young women a great responsibility, that I do want to honor to the fullest. But I also want to be who I am: which is an example of a generally happy person, ambitious, sporty and... expressive! Some of them need that example. But is it disrespectful to their parents?

It's a subject I'll have to reflect on quite a bit in the coming months. Send me your thoughts at   xoxo


  1. I swear in front of my kids ALL the time. They swear, they are 4 & 7, they use "swear" words in appropiate form i.e they stub their toe "oh shit that fucking hurt". They also sing along to music that uses (by society standards) language not appropiate for children and understand what it means. I have just told them not to use those words around my own family and at school. I myself could not care less if other children or adults swore around point holding back your natural selves as I believe this teaches children that being yourself is not acceptable.

  2. I do swear, especially in derby. I try not to swear in front of my kids but they know I do. I feel there is a time and place for swearing. I wouldn't do it in church or in front of my mother out of respect. A "bad word" will slip here and there and I tell my kids when they are my age they can say what ever the hell they want. Point being, I don't believe in this whole"they are little people"bull. they are kids, lets watch our fucking mouth in front of them. <3

  3. I swear alot too. Like every other fvckn word. To me the swear words are descriptive. I personally think as long as you are not calling a person a swear word like "You fvckin asshole, get lower" then it's ok. For example you fall on your tail bone and exclaim, "Aww fvck that hurt." Most kids know not to swear and when I do slip up in front of them I apologize and agree that I shouldn't swear. I agree we should watch our mouth in front of them and set the example of not belittle a person with a swear word as well as apologizing. In short, I feel it's teaching youngster's there are better words to describe emotionally charged experiences and it happens sometimes. Cuz I mean fvck it's just a word and aren't actions louder or some shit like that?

  4. I don't censor myself in front of juniors, but I think it's important to have a proper sense of proportion. I don't curse whenever I feel like it just because that's "what I do" - but I am an excitable coach and that's when I may slip. "Dang, that was fucking beautiful! I mean, it was freaking beautiful!" Theres a couple giggles and we move on.

    I do deliberately watch my analogies, which can be kind of crass at time. Drunken crossovers are clumsy crossovers for the juniors, etc.

    Getting to know the parents a bit, it strikes me that anyone who wants a cookie cutter, proper curtsying daughter is not going to be enrolling her in junior derby. It just occurred to me too, how often is there a "class" situation where the coaches are going through all the same stuff as the juniors, at the same time? Hard training that sometimes results in great wins or heartbreaking losses. Triumphs and disappointments, rule changes, strategy changes - and we are ALL part of a "new" sport. I think this makes for some pretty authentic role model situations (that goes both ways, IMHO). The parents seem to care more about that than if we come off as squeaky clean role models.

  5. For me it's a question of what's appropriate, and not really a question of being genuine or authentic. I have a degree in linguistics, so I can say from that field that it's a normal feature of communication that we tailor our language to the situation. We all change roles and situations on a daily or even hourly basis, and we all have to tailor our language to the role we play and the situation we're in. For me, I don't feel less "myself" if I have to change my language to fit my situation. So what's appropriate for derby kids? Derby is supposed to be a little naughty. That's what makes it fun. As a parent of a derby girl, I don't care if my kid hears an occasional F bomb, but an endless blue streak seems kind of unnecessary. I want my kid to understand the idea that different situations require different language and actions, as well, and the relationship between an adult and a kid can require a certain amount of respect, expressed through both sides restraining their desire to swear. Thanks for the interesting fucking question.

  6. I had the über pleasure of coaching the same Jrs for 2 months before leaving the country again. And well, let's face it I'm a sailor. Literally. Swearing is a part of life. I struggled a lot with it, mainly out of respect for the parents but also because I coached strictly the younger girls of Level 1 & 2. Most were under 10. When I bite my tongue from swearing I honestly don't feel like I'm not being true to myself. I'm just doing what I can to - as you say - be a positive role model. These kids all swear and cuss, and most know better expression than I do! I'm also way to aware of how my sisters so hated it when I'd say fuck in front of their kids...

    Make it a game - if they catch you cussing drop down and do 5 pushups. Own up to it. They'll love you for being a true role model... And love you even more for not being a fake. Have the discussion with them, talk about what a real derby girl is - you know? Make it part of the education and the growth... Cussing is part of who you are. It's what makes you so real. Actually, the topic should be part of the orientation with the parents!

    Great post by the way. I love your honesty...

    (ps. this is Marr Bulls by the way, I miss SDDD!!!!)

  7. I would vote for not swearing. Or trying not to swear, as the case may be. Mainly out of deference to the parents. Think how much it would stink to lose the chance to mold the next Bonnie D. Stroir because her parents were turned off from derby because of a few loose "motherfuckers." But I can't imagine any parent removing their junior derbier because the language was "too tame."

  8. I swear, in front of my kids, nieces, nephews, etc. I also swear in front of Juniors, I just don't use fuck in front of them. My girls have been taught that you are who you are and you shouldn't have to change that for anyone. That includes how you talk. My oldest daughter has been bullied, I have been teaching that being who you are is ok, if I didn't swear in front of them I am being hypocritical, something I despise. By the way she is 9, does derby, is exceptional at it and when she screws up she is the first one to say damn it! :)

  9. I think a question we should be asking ourselves here is, if these were young men instead of young women would this conversation even be relevant?

  10. Right or wrong, I think you run the risk of losing skaters to parents who don't want their kids around someone who swears all the time. Not saying it'll definitely happen, but is it worth the risk?

  11. I cuss a lot too, but my children do not cuss (well, I am sure my 18 year old does, but he does not in front of me). Even though I am all for expressing yourself and whatnot, I would not want my children's coaches or teachers cussing in front of them. I guess what it comes down to for me is this, I feel that if the coach or instructor feels comfortable with cussing around my kid, how long will it be before he/she cusses a kid out. You aren't allowed to speak to my child like that.If you want to cuss around kids be prepared for parents that won't like it (I have had to watch my mouth plenty of times) and be prepared for someone to ask you to stop it.

  12. I love Marie Nicole's idea! Make it a game, so that if you cuss, you have to do 5 push ups. But if they cuss, they have to do the same thing. Should be a lot of push ups going on!! LOL

  13. It's not like they never hear swearing its kind of become the norm these days however there is a time and place. My 12 year old skates with me at my league and my coach swears and then is like oh sorry, to which I say she has heard me say far worse. My daughter knows that it is not ok to just go around dropping an F bomb and I tell her i should'nt swear but sometimes there is just a need to say what ever the fuck you want and when you want to lol. I have never heard her swear once .

  14. This is an interesting question, and you've started conversations :-)

    My husband, who's generally less foul-mouthed and rebellious than me, thinks it's best to avoid swearing - that even if you normally do, you'd have a sense of place and wouldn't if you found yourself in a church, or at a funeral, or around strangers, or other people who you knew it might offend and you didn't wish to offend, so why not change your language? And it's true that we code-switch all the time, right? I avoid swearing around people I know will be bothered by it, or people who try to avoid exposing their kids to it. I minimize it when I teach (at the college level), using it just for emphasis. If I'm around others who swear a lot, I might get downright rubs off on me just like watching the "Bill and Ted" movies leaves me calling everyone "Dude" for days.

    On the other hand, I think I have a responsibility to work with children as equals, more or less. Unless I've been hired as a nanny, or have a very specific understanding with their parents, I'm going to interact with any person I'm teaching/serving/socializing with in the same way, regardless of their age. It's my job to teach a particular skill; it's not my job to parent them. It's definitely not my job to figure out what each parent's random set of standards for good behavior is and enforce that for each child. I expect everyone to make decisions for her/himself about what's appropriate - and as long as they're following the laws, the rules of the event, and the safety standards, that's good enough for me. So following that, if I'd cuss in front of adults, I'd cuss in front of kids.

    But on the other hand, Junior Roller Derby is kind of a revenue-producing business for the League. The parents are the ones paying fees, so their kids can have an activity. So who are you responsible to? Grrr...tough question.....

  15. Our leagues adults and juniors are entering their second season. We are fortunate to have 3 adult derby skaters coaching our juniors. I know that the juniors curse and the adults do as well. But when we get together to practice or bout, their training kicks in.

    Our juniors start at age 8. There are a lot or important concepts that we as adults wanted to instill in our young derby girls and zebra boy’s. The obvious, how to play and excel at roller derby.

    Then there are the less tangible but possibly the most important: Endurance, self-discipline, self-respect, respect for our team mates and coaches, self-confidence and confidence that your team mates have got your back, on and off the court.

    Our adult skaters and coaches made a conscience decision to avoid using bad language and try to maintain a positive attitude when in the presence of our junior members. The self-discipline that the adult’s exhibit is not lost on our young skaters. It’s simply become part of our code of conduct. The fact that our coaches and some adult members have kids skating on the junior league might have something to do with it as well. And Bonnie, you sure didn’t seem like you were struggling to be someone you’re not last year when you coached our RAD Recruits. Great lessons learned and now well practiced so we are ready for season two.

  16. I really appreciate all the insight. Thank you Parents and Coaches!

  17. As far as the moral or ethical implications go, decide for yourself. I personally believe that children are people and I don't generally go out of my way to make changes in my personality for other people, regardless of their size.

    The real issue at hand is a practical one:

    -You will never lose any junior skaters by keeping your mouth in check.

    -You are bound to lose some young skaters to prudish parents by swearing around the young'ns at practice.

    I think that's it.

  18. I always think the best way is being up front with the kids about your dilemma. You can address this issue to them, regardless your decision to swear in front of them or not. I think it lets them know you've put thought into it and you have considered social boundaries, mores, whatever, and have great respect for them. I think it's good when kids see adults figuring things out and the process along with it.

  19. Really interesting topic!
    Personally, I don't swear when I coach or bench... except to drive home a very, very strong point. Positive or negative and occasionally in that motivational statement as and when required.
    I deliver training professionally so it's not something I do day to day.
    I have played for a lot of coaches, some swore some didn't. I think it comes down to authenticity and personal expression. Being clear and upfront with kids and parents - I am how I am, I express myself the way I do - is a great way to overcome any issue before it becomes one.

  20. As the great Stephen Fry once said:Swearing is a really important part of one's life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing... There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary -such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves... The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest or -is just a fucking lunatic... I haven't met anybody who's truly shocked at swearing, really, they're only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that's preposterous... or they say 'it's not necessary'. As if that should stop one doing it! It's not necessary to have coloured socks, it's not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say 'I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn't necessary'? No, things not being necessary is what makes life interesting -the little extras in life.

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