Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Sporting Game

For those of us who live in Massachusetts there has been a major news story about a hazing incident that involved a high school varsity basketball team who had attended a basketball camp this past summer. This story only came to light this past week. Apparently the incident in question involved forcing underclassman who were new recruits to the team, to eat cookies that had been dipped/spread in semen. I hope you are not reading this post with your morning coffee.

I know boys will be boys, but really. The details of the incident and how the semen was acquired are sketchy due to the disgustingness of the allegations, but it clearly involved coercion and humiliation.  The school system has suspended the upperclassman responsible for the hazing, and are moving to expel them permanently. Lawyers for the expelled seniors are fighting the expulsion saying:"They have been really good students and anticipated going on to college. All of that is up in the air right now."

I feel bad for everyone. I feel terrible for the victims who were underclassman, who must have been elated to make the varsity team,  and looked forward to playing for their high school team. Now that has all been tainted. I feel bad for the senior boys who were responsible for the hazing. I truly believe that they really didn't didn't think there was anything that wrong with what they were doing. After all, in their minds, they are probably thinking: "it's not like anyone got hurt! Their lives will be forever effected.

Who I feel no sympathy for are the coaches, and the staff at the basketball camp, and maybe even the parents whose kids are on the team. Somewhere along the line, these kids are just not getting the message that hazing is serious business. Hazing, in this case, was not physically damaging, but it sure as hell was psychologically damaging. When someone, especially a teenager, who is literally at the most psychologically vulnerable time of their life is humiliated in front of their peers, it can do real harm. I get that teenagers don't get this and don't understand this. But the adults do need to get it.

If you have a son or daughter who is on a sports team or a cheer leading squad it is your job to talk about this issue with them. You might tell them about this incident, and then say: " I get that upperclassmen/women feel sometimes that it is their right to "induct" new team member into the team through some traditional rights of passage. Unfortunately those "rights of passage" are illegal if they humiliate or put someone's safety at risk. Just recently a drum corp member of a college team died as a result of some "right of passage" that involved alcohol. This is serious stuff, and I know you might be in a situation someday where you will be the subject of or be asked to be the perpetrator of hazing. Lets figure out what you can do, should you ever find yourself in this situation."

Though all schools now have very strict rules and regulations about hazing, I don't think the communicating part to the kids is happening. This is where you come in. Never expect that someone else will take care of it. Take care of it yourself!

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