Hazing in Sports, “Rite of Passage” or Outright Abuse?
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One of the most common, and deadly, misconceptions among Americans is that hazing is just lighthearted teasing that occurs exclusively in college fraternities. Therefore, many Americans would be astonished by the fact that in reality, 47% of students arrive at college having already experienced hazing.
Hazing can occur not just in Greek societies but within a group of any kind, be it a sports team, a marching band, a theater group, even the military. A broad definition of hazing would describe it as the abuse and thorough embarrassment of victims. This definition would make hazing sound similar to bullying when in fact they are not the same. When it comes to hazing, the tormentor and victim are supposed to be on the same team and support one another whereas in bullying, this is not necessarily the case. This may be the very reason that hazing often goes unnoticed. Teammates are hesitant to report any cases of abuse because they don’t want to be accused of being the ever-notorious team “rat”.
The popularity of hazing in sports specifically has become increasingly popular since 1980. Ranging from forced alcohol abuse, to running around in undergarments, to outright sexual abuse – the torment can be inflicted through absurd and terrifying strategies. Hazing often occurs as a way to make new members “earn” their spot on the team. If the older teammates had to pass these ridiculous tests, then the thought process goes that the younger kids should be required to do the same. If victims complain about hazing, then they risk seeming weaker and unfit for their position on the team. Sports mom, former athlete, and Watchung Hills English teacher Mrs. Goodson says, “That’s exactly what any predator hopes from their victim. That they keep quiet, don’t talk about it, and ‘man up’ about the situation,”.
And so, nothing is reported and the cycle continues.
Hazing is not just foul play among immature high school athletes, but has been seen to follow participants into their professional careers as well. In the past few weeks Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito‘s case has been all over the news, and although evidence has been provided and he has been suspended indefinitely, it is still possible that his career with the Dolphins is not yet over. Mrs. Goodson remarked that in another scenario, it is likely that a lawsuit would be filed against Incognito. However football’s “supposed fraternity of protection”, as she put it, has prevented people from speaking out for years. She says, “I understand that idea of ‘brotherhood’…and that there are certain things that you don’t want to become public. But physical abuse and psychological abuse? There’s no place for that. Anywhere.”
Another reason that hazing has been so tricky to deal with is because students and administrators often rule out the possibility of hazing occurring at their school. However if hazing can be covered up in professional leagues, then there is a likelihood that it could be occurring right under our noses at WHRHS as well. To prevent any potential hazing issues, it is important that coaches and administrators are aware of any issues occurring on their own teams. While the camaraderie and unity within any team is one of the most respectful bonds, it cannot be used to justify abuse. “Coaches cannot just ‘look the other way’ and that whole ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘girls will be girls’ mentality needs to stop,” advises Mrs. Goodson. As a faculty member herself, she is confident that if administrators were conscious of acts of abuse, they would do everything in their power to put an end to it.
The first step towards solving any issue is spreading awareness. Watchung Hills football team may not be as prestigious as those in the NFL, but our efforts to preventing hazing could help countless students within our own school, and some day around the nation as well.