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Hazing in Youth Sports: How Parents can Help

Make sure your kids know the difference between hazing and team building, and that all members should be treated with respect.

Dr. Jorge Gomez, sports medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus

People who perpetrate hazing often defend the action as a necessary way for newcomers to “prove that they deserve to be on the team.” Shouldn’t newcomers’ performance on the playing field and how well they support their teammates prove that they have a right to be on the team?

After recent news surrounding a highly publicized incident with two professional football players surfaced, both professional and college coaches voiced their opinions about hazing in sports, calling it counterproductive, distracting and harmful. The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) has an official handbook devoted entirely to the issue of hazing. The following is taken directly from the handbook:

Hazing vs. Team Building:

Hazing

  • Humiliates and degrades
  • Tears down individuals
  • Creates division
  • Creates lifelong nightmares
  • Involves shame and secrecy
  • Is a power trip

Team Building

    • Promotes respect and dignity
    • Supports and empowers
    • Creates real teamwork
    • Creates lifelong memories
    • Involves pride and integrity
    • Is a shared positive experience

The handbook also states that preventing hazing is a shared responsibility among administrators, coaches and players. At youth levels, this would include parents.

As with other behaviors, we want to avoid having our children and teens engage in this act. It is important for parents and coaches to send their child a strong anti-hazing message that spells out the consequences for the people doing the hazing.

Children should not have to undergo hazing rituals just so they can feel accepted in a team sport. They do not have to be “forced” to do something for it to be hazing; sometimes peer pressure alone or wanting to be accepted will lead a youngster to do something they really don’t want to do.

A team member should never have to prove he or she has the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Mutual respect and caring for all members of the team, no matter their level of talent, should be a goal for every team. Coaches, parents and team captains have to talk about this principle and set the examples for our children.

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