Hazing in School Sports

While maybe not explicit, every educational institution has the same top priority, which is the safety of their students. Regardless of how a school strives or measures success, the first step is to ensure a safe environment for all. Internally, an athletic department must not only provide a safe environment for students to compete in sport, but they must also be leaders and actively engaged in the fight against bullying and hazing.

Unfortunately, a national survey by Hoover and Pollard (2000) found that “forty-eight percent of students who belong to groups reported being subjected to hazing activities”, while “thirty-five percent of students are hazed when joining a sports team”.

The solution must be education of expectations and a school and athletic department who adopt a zero-tolerance policy for hazing or bullying. It simply cannot be tolerated.

The root of this problem lies with language. An athletic department must ensure proper language usage by coaches and athletes is taking place, especially in the locker room. The locker room is just that, a locker room. It is a place to change and bond as a team before and after games. It is not a secret or safe place where inappropriate music and language can be used freely. The school’s mission and values are not impervious to the locker room doors or walls, which means athletes, coaches, and the athletic department must hold one another accountable in what they say and how they say it.

Peyton Manning’s image has recently been tarnished over the rediscovery of his alleged sexual-assault during his years playing football at the University of Tennessee. Rather than explore what potentially occurred (you can read it here), one cannot deny that the language adopted to describe the trainer Dr. Jamie Naughright is a perfect example of how bullying and hazing was accepted at that time. What allegedly happened to Dr. Naughright is an atrocity and was grievously enabled by more than just the bullies. We can only hope that examples like this are limited and declining, but hoping isn’t enough. Instead, we must all become active in the pursuit of safe school environments and for the athletic department, coaches, and student-athletes, it begins in the locker room.

Caudill, K. (2014). What is hazing? Retrieved from NFHS: http://www.nfhs.org/sports-resource-content/starwhat-is-hazing/

Hoover, N. C., & Pollard, N. J. (2000). Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey. Final Report.

King, S. (2016). Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies, as detailed in explosive court documents showing ugly smear campaign against his alleged sex assault victim. Retrieved from NY Daily: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-peyton-manning-squeaky-clean-image-built-lies-article-1.2530395

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