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While attending an out of town summer football camp, it is alleged that some of the upperclassmen (mostly seniors) targeted a number of underclassmen (mostly sophomore’s) for “initiation”. Part of this ritual (reportedly going on 4 yrs running at this summer camp; all under the current head coach) includes forcing the younger players to strip naked, applying Icy Hot, Ben-Gay (or other liniment type product) directly to the private areas (testicles & penis) and forcing them into a hot shower.

This kind of thing was common in my HS years and even condoned by coaches; I never understood the ritual and it always turned my stomach. I thought such practices had long since gone by the wayside. In this day and age it seems most would consider it assault if not abuse.

It is further alleged that the varsity coach and his staff learned of the incident while still at camp. In the name of discipline, they exacerbated the problem by punishing those involved with extended running sessions (with little or no water) until most were vomiting. Then, keeping a lid on it, they failed to report the incident to player parents on either side. Finally, it is alleged that the HS athletic director and the school district were notified anonymously (player parents are reluctant to come forward for fear of retribution toward their children), but no meaningful action was taken to investigate, discipline, etc.

What is your view and advice?

Gilbert, AZ

HAZING… I am really sad to hear about this. What could be a fun, team bonding type experience, has somehow found itself coming out in sexual and demeaning ways. This type of hazing has been around for years, but I had hoped it had gone away as a result of a more aware, more educated cohort of administrators.
I remember as a kid, that sometimes making a club or a team meant an initiation by “kidnapping” the newest members in their pajamas (with the parent’s permission) and going out for breakfast, or a big banana split. It was fun, and it was to honor that person for an accomplishment, or welcome them onto the team. It also meant that there was parental involvement and supervision with pre-approval from the appropriate administration. It was for fun, and everyone looked forward to it.

What you describe sadly is not this kind of scenario. It has lost the flavor, and perhaps has lost the original intent or motivation behind the event. What may have originated as a team bonding or motivating practice has spiraled downward into an abusive, humiliating experience. I think a crucial piece to something like this is to establish or remember the goal, and make sure that what takes place accomplishes that goal. Kids lack the maturity and life experiences to keep these kinds of events in line, so they need intentional, guidance and input from their coaches and adults leaders. The adults need to be in touch with what is going on, so they can help the kids create an environment that welcomes, embraces and motivates new comers, rather than harm and humiliate them.
Anything that involves boys or girls private areas or any kind of sexual suggestion should never be permitted. It is wrong. It tears apart rather than uplifts. It debases rather than affirms.

I like the way I experienced it… recognizing an achievement in an honoring way that edified the kids. I love and encourage this kind of event. It is rewarding, as the focus is on everyone laughing together and not at the expense of anyone. Kids will continue to pass on the “rituals” that they have experienced… something went sour somewhere along the line in the camp you described… These kids went too far.

So, no I do not think that there is any place whatsoever for “hazing”. It is wrong and needs to be stopped. It also needs to come along with the right kind of severe consequences; the kind of consequences that lead to learning and reformation. I don’t think the right kind of punishment is to humiliate those who were involved. This is the exact thing we are trying to teach against. An “eye for an eye”, in my opinion is not the correct response.

Suspension from that team or from school is one way to respond. Being removed from the team is another option. Doing some kind of community service is another idea. I think the proper law enforcement when applicable also is a strong consideration. Educating the kids on the damage that has been done has to take top priority.

Hazing needs to stop. Rewarding in a fun, responsible way with proper adult and authoritative supervision and guidelines should be the goal.

This also teaches our kids how to be creative. “How can we honor our friends and affirm their accomplishments in a fun and new way?” this is the question our kids need to ask and answer.

So, let’s keep everyone’s clothes on and consume the biggest banana split ever created and have FUN!

Comments and questions? email Tom Kuyper at….

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