My friend and colleague, Sheri Riley, is joining me again as a guest blogger. We wish to discuss hazing. A practice I despise, but one I feel needs addressing due to a recent local incident.
One of the largest and most prominent high schools in our town continues to be in the news recently for a hazing incident that occurred with the basketball team. Most of the details have been extremely hush-hush, but we know it involved some senior players who were disciplined for "bullying". A fourth has been disciplined for another incident taking place in the locker room.
I know hazing and initiation practices have been going on since the beginning of time. There were probably clubs on Noah's Ark and animals had to be scolded. But somewhere in all of the madness, there has to be a voice of reason. We've seen the results when the fun goes awry: alcohol poisoning, hazing, self-hatred, suicide, emergency room visits, etc.
We are only just learning about how young people's brains don't fully develop until they are in their mid 20s. I'm 46 and still make stupid decisions. I do believe there is some serious fault to be found when young people -- boy scouts, girl clubs, fraternities, whatever -- are finding time to put younger and weaker members of the club through barbaric rituals without any adults having a clue.
The whole concept makes me sad and it makes me feel old.
Because details have not been published to protect names, rumors are a plenty, and there is mass speculation about what the hazing involved and who did what to whom. If true, the whisperings are despicable. Yes, I feel very strongly about this!
I was a competitive AAU swimmer all through grade school and high school and then swam for Indiana University. Never once in my 13-year swimming career was I bullied, beaten up, forced to participate in something that compromised me or my values, or otherwise hazed. And I don't think anyone else on the teams I swam for was either. Our team members were all very different people from various walks of life with different income levels, yet we all found a way to get along and do the team thing. While there were the proverbial "haves" and the "have nots", no one cared. We were focused on training, competing and winning -- not making our team members feel inferior. And, we did not have the time to haze.
The worst thing I remember happening is that a few kids got locked in the Greyhound bus bathroom (for maybe 30 seconds) as we traveled many hours to the Indianapolis/Scarborough Peace Games in Canada. It was not hazing, it was just someones idea of being funny. It happened, then it ended. No harm done. No one got hurt.
Shame on athletes today (especially young athletes) who think they are above the fray and feel the need to bully others who may not be as talented or strong as they are. Being a better athlete does not make you a better person than someone else. I often find that "bullies" lack self-worth and self-confidence, and they use their bully tactics to make up for their short-comings. I thought athletes were supposed to be role models. At the end of the day, no matter who we are or what we do, we all put our pants on the same way.
Here's my message to Carmel High School's (and any other school's) athlete bullies: Grow the heck up, and understand that being an athlete is not the most important thing in life. It does not entitle you. To anything.
And, one day, you won't be an athlete. You'll just be a plain old person like the rest of us.
Shame on the coaches if they say they (wink, wink) did not know these things were going on.