The details of an alleged hazing incident involving players of the Woodside High School basketball team while on a road trip are troubling. Discipline included the removal of the team’s coach, who allegedly did nothing about the incident, and another coach. The Sequoia Union High School District has an anti-hazing policy that student-athletes must sign, so it is not as if they were not aware that such behavior is not allowed.
Some may say this is nothing more than a prank and that such hazing is part of athletic tradition. Some say it builds camaraderie and team spirit. But too often, it does quite the opposite. School officials have done their part in banning such behavior and taking appropriate action after the fact. Of course more can be done at the administrative level and we encourage the district to seriously consider more stringent measures to ensure such incidents do not happen again.
The incident in question involves two players who were grabbed by other players, duct-taped to a chairs, had their mouths duct-taped and at least one had lipstick applied to his face and one was forced to watch Spanish-language TV for an hour so he could learn Spanish. Obviously, such a situation is demoralizing and does little to build team spirit. It borders on bullying and malicious behavior.
Time and again, there are incidents at the professional level in which newcomers to a team are forced to carry luggage, wear bizarre outfits and engage in other silly behavior. But it also goes to a further extreme. Case in point is the Richie Incognito hazing incident against Jonathan Martin on the Miami Dolphins in which Martin was reportedly maliciously attacked and forced to pay for Incognito’s $15,000 trip to Las Vegas. That situation caused tremendous embarrassment to the Dolphins’ organization, as it should.
There is obviously more attention being paid to such incidents and its impacts to those at the receiving end. At the professional level, it’s one thing. At the college level, it’s another. And at the high school level, when the participants are minors, it’s a completely different level. When school districts constantly plan programs and assemblies about bullying and there is higher attention being paid to this type of behavior, it is egregious when it carries on. True, this may be an isolated incident or it could be part of a larger, archaic, yet still persistent set of behaviors in the student-athlete world. If a teacher in a world geography class witnessed a study group engaging in such an activity, it would not be tolerated. And nor should it on athletic teams.
The administration is obviously taking steps to ameliorate the situation, but it goes beyond school staff. Parents should also sense a call to action and speak to their children about hazing, bullying and any type of behavior that could cause undue and unwarranted stress and harm to anyone else. It may be “boys being boys” but there is a definite line when that becomes something else completely. And emphasizing the importance of not crossing that line takes the attention of all of us.