Family Magazine

If You Have a Son in Sports This Is Mandatory Reading!

By Joanigeltman @joanigeltman
A week ago two news stories broke about  high school football teams in Maryland where disturbing hazing incidents took place. The incident at Damascus High School was particularly heinous. The alleged hazing involved wrestling 9th grade players to the floor, while older fellow players, beat kicked and digitally penetrated their anuses with a broom stick. Sorry if you are reading this with your morning coffee. Disgusting, humiliating. This is not hazing, this is sexual assault. The boys said, oh, it's been going on for generations, as if that makes it all OK. Of course, no adults seemed to know anything about it!. Could the message these newbie football players have been given was to "man-up" during these initiation rights!.
I know boys will be boys, but really! The school superintendent have expelled these students and 4 out of the 5 will be charged with serious crimes..They are investigating not only this incident but the culture of athletic and activities of the entire system.
I feel bad for everyone. I feel terrible for the victims who were underclassman, who must have been elated to make the team,  and looked forward to playing for their high school team. Now that has all been tainted. I feel bad for the older boys who were responsible for the assault. I truly believe that they really didn't didn't think there was anything that wrong with what they were doing. According to Michael Thompson, a psychologist specializing in the psychology of boys and who has written extensively about the culture of cruelty present in "boy culture", explains that that is how you show you're a man! These are learned behaviors, not something you are born ready to do.  Who is teaching them that this OK.
Recently I showed my college students the documentary made by Michael Thompson called Raising Cain. It is available on youtube and I advise those of you with sons watch it with them, and then discuss this recent news story. (see link below) My students were given the option to write a reflection paper on this film connecting to their own experience. With permission of the student, I share this story:
From a young age playing hockey, we got the message that toughness and hard work will beat talent and skill. This was drilled into our heads at every practice for years. We cared more about hitting other players more than we cared about scoring goals. When people would get hurt, the coaches and teammates gave them little to no sympathy. For example, when I as 12 I blocked a shot during a game and fractured my foot. When I got back to the bench, I held it in as best as I could for a 12 year old. When the coach saw me wincing he asked what happened. I replied that I thought I broke my foot. His response was "suck it up", the foot's a long way from the heart...don't be a pansy." So I finished the game and afterwards played the following games since my coach and mom thought it was a bruise. The following week I went to get x-rays and found out it was fractured. My coach did not apologize and was actually proud of me for "playing through the pain."

I played with the same ice hockey team for almost 10 years. we were a very close knit group to say the least. However looking back now I can see that we enjoyed our own "culture of cruelty." When a player was scared to get hit and the rest of the team found out, it was an assault of name-calling from players and even coaches. Perhaps the fact that coaches often chimed in and in some cases led the charge made us think it was OK. 
What are the messages that coaches, staff  and maybe even the parents whose kids are on the team giving these kids?  Somewhere along the line, these kids are just not getting the message that hazing is serious business. Hazing, in this case, was not only physically damaging, but it sure as hell is 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.  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!
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/hazing-incident-reported-at-another-maryland-high-school-officials-say/2018/11/11/c2a0daf6-e15e-11e8-8f5f-a55347f48762_story.html?utm_term=.0c0dbce90fd5

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