They don’t make bullies like they used to.
In fact, they make them worse in some cases.
That’s part of the message that members of the Kitsap Admirals told young islanders.
Officials with the Kitsap Admirals paid a visit to youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club last week. But they weren’t there to shoot hoops. Instead, they wanted to drive home their anti-bullying message.
“It’s OK to be different,” said Ashley Robinson, owner of the Kitsap Admirals. “It doesn’t give anyone the right to bully you.”
Robinson knows about bullying from growing up like most kids.
“Of course my name is ‘Ashley’ so I had to deal with that growing up,” he joked.
Robinson played four years professionally for the American Basketball Association and the International Basketball League. He has been touring schools and other youth gathering spots with team coach Chris Koebelin. The two are shifting the spotlight normally on their players to a bigger and more concerning issue.
“Our main target is to eliminate bullying in schools,” Koebelin said. “We try to attack it with our ability as a professional basketball team.”
Bullying has taken national headlines in recent years as the problem continues to fester. The National Association of School Psychologists links bullying to a host of other youth problems, from drug use to decreased academic performance and even suicide.
Members from the Admirals, and the Admiral’s dance squad, highlight the issue while displaying their skills on the court, and also perform skits to relay the message.
Koebelin and Robinson were flying solo for their Feb. 4 visit to the island, though they were assisted by Eddie Mabanglo, the announcer for the Admirals and son of the island’s program director Jesse Mabanglo.
Koebelin stood in front of a captive island audience at the Boys & Girls Club off Madison Avenue and spoke about four different types of bullying: verbal, physical, cyber and clique.
Most people are familiar with verbal or physical bullying, Koebelin said, but newer forms such as cyber bullying are methods older generations don’t have experience with.
The coach also noted that clique bullying — where groups of kids team up on an individual — has become increasingly popular among girls in elementary school.
“We ask kids in the audience if they have experience or seen bullying in their school,” Koebelin said. “Most of the time about 90 percent of the hands go up.”
On Bainbridge Island, the roomfull of small hands went into the air after kids were asked if they had experienced bullying of some kind.
Robinson likes to take his team to speak with youngsters.
“It’s not about being a celebrity,” he said. “It keeps the basketball players humble and grounded in their community.”