January 25, 2016
Recently the basketball team from Ooltewah HS in Chattanooga, Tennessee took a road trip to a basketball tournament. Two of his teammates held a player down while a third player raped him with an object. This was their way of hazing him. Two coaches and the athletic director knew this happened and did not immediately report it to the police. That student will never have normal health again. This incident highlights the crisis of bullying on elementary, middle schools, and high schools across the country. The irony is that athletes can be part of the solution–not the instigators of the problem.
Fortunately, the Silverdale Baptist Academy realized what the school did not–that the culture on the basketball and football team was violent and bullying needed to be fixed. They called in famed Paul Coughlin, an expert in anti-bullying efforts and his Protectors team to show them innovative ways to combine home, church, and schools in an effort to stem the violence. Coughlin travels from his Oregon home around the country trying to stop this soul-crushing practice. Fortunately there are other experts and organization trying to replace bullying with tolerance.
When students engage in physical, emotional or cyberspace bullying it can destroy forever the confidence and emotional sense of self worth of the victim. According to DoSomething.org over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. Approximately 160,000 students skip school every day because of bullying. 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying. 41% of girls 15-17 who are online report bullying. 10% of students drop out of school because of bullying. The teen suicide rate from bullying is spiking. We are allowing bullies to alter and destroy the future for kids, and 25% of teachers think there is nothing wrong with bullying and refuse to intervene.
In the hierarchy of most middle and high schools it is the athletes who sit on top of the pyramid as having lives which other students admire. If a concerted effort is made to teach tolerance to these athletes, and they model that behavior, it can alter behavioral patterns on campus. I gave a speech several years ago to the CIF, California’s high school athletic governing body and urged athletic directors, coaches, and athletes to be given instruction as to the impact their attitudes have on the culture of a school. If an athlete has lunch or puts their arm around a student who is being bullied for physical appearance, or is physically challenged, or less than macho, other athletes and students will quickly see that bullying as not acceptable.
Athletes can be the center of an advertising campaign over all platforms of content supply that fights bullying. The major sports leagues and colleges can contribute to the effort. Don’t we owe our children the ability to attend school and not be subject to harassment. Sports can lead the way.
Do you think athletes & coaches can makean impact on bullying? How?