Hazing: Ritual or Humiliating?

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What used to be known as a ritual of bonding, hazing is now getting attention around the world due to lawsuits and sometimes the killing of athletes in these incidents.

According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, hazing is any activity expected of athletes joining a sport team that humiliates or abuses them. These activities are considered hazing whether the athlete wants to participate or not.

Examples of hazing activities include:

  • Being thrown in water or mud
  • Eating disgusting things
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Destroying property
  • Being beaten
  • Sexual Harassment

The magazine Sports Illustrated and the newspaper USA Today published major stories in 2003 about hazing incidents in schools and colleges, especially among athletes. Accounts of student athletes being subjected to harmful and degrading acts as part of an initiation to become members of a team were highlighted.

Both articles reported the scandalous abuse that emerged at a “powder puff” football game between junior and senior girls at a suburban high school outside Chicago.

The event, caught on video and aired frequently on television newscasts, showed seniors kicking and punching their junior classmates as well as smearing them with a mixture of house paint, fish guts and human feces. Several of the juniors required hospital care for their physical injuries (one can only imagine the extent of their emotional injuries).

Anti-Hazing Policy

Anti-Hazing Policy

Although publications like Sports Illustrated and USA Today are helpful in bringing the consequence and extent of this problem to the attention of a larger audience, Spike has an article from 2009 that glorifies the professional sports hazing rituals.

I feel the question that many people need to ask themselves is when have rituals, or hazing, gone too far? Has it gone too far when two 14-year-old freshman members of the varsity boys’ soccer team claim they were sexually assaulted inside the school on Sept. 26 as part of a hazing ritual at Maine West High School?

According to the Chicago Tribune:

“An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigation concluded on Jan. 30 that there were ‘indicated’ reports of abuse and neglect against both staff members, according to spokesman Dave Clarkin. An ‘indicated’ report means the agency found credible evidence that abuse took place.

Clarkin declined to comment on whether the targets of the investigation were boys and girls varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo and freshman boys coach Emilio Rodriguez.

Both men, who have denied knowledge of hazing, have been suspended and face being fired in the wake of the scandal that was revealed in November. They could not be reached for comment Saturday.”

Although there was justice served to the five juveniles who sexually assaulted the two boys, charged with misdemeanor battery, there are many cases of hazing that get swept under the rug.

Hazing Hurts

Hazing Hurts

According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, because hazing contains humiliating, degrading, abusive, and dangerous activities, athletes who have been hazed may have negative psychological experiences. These psychological experiences differ based on the athlete, the hazing activity and the environment – some psychological experiences may last a short period of time whereas others may be longer lasting.

Psychological effects of hazing includes:

  • Decrease in confidence
  • Self-doubting
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts

Schools and athletic programs have the accountability to have policies in place to deter hazing. Two ways to help prevent hazing are executing a policy and creating substitute team-bonding activities. Three steps should be used when creating a policy.

  1. The zero-tolerance policy should be written in clear and simple language so that teachers, coaches, administrators, students and parents understand the policy. Consequences for breaking the policy should also be included.
  2. At the pre-season meeting for all sport teams, administrators and coaches need to explain the zero-tolerance policy to students and parents. After reviewing the policy, students should sign a student contract stating they understand the policy and will respect the policy or meet the consequences.
  3. If hazing occurs on a sport team, administrators and coaches need to immediately investigate the incident. If students did violate the zero-tolerance policy for hazing, strong action consistent with the policy needs to be taken.

As parents, educators and other professionals, people have the duty of ensuring that no child or adolescent is exposed to hazing or its equivalent, bullying. It is a responsibility that deserves full attention.


One thought on “Hazing: Ritual or Humiliating?

  1. Pingback: Fired Maine West soccer coach: ‘I have done nothing wrong’ | Katherine Iorio

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