Random Thoughts: on Rites of Passage

So the Northwestern University Women's Soccer Team got "busted" for what appears to be hazing. Coach Roy takes a look at what's known about the alleged event, the use of initiations in building teamwork, and has a additional observations of his own to boot...

[Also published on CoachRoy.org]

I'm sure we're all disturbed
by the reports that the Northwestern Women's Soccer team conducted what appears to be Hazing prior to the start of the season last Summer. Pictures posted on the internet last summer appear to show young women in various stages of undress, performing well, you know.

Given all the controversy surrounding the Duke Men's Lacrosse team and their "party," NU AD Mark Murphy reacted swiftly and decisively in suspending the team. Assistant AD for Media Services, Mike Wolf was quoted in USA Today's story, that "The Duke (incident) just reinforced the sensitivity."

The Women's soccer team, under head coach Jenny Haigh, had been been rebounding a bit - they finished 9-9-1 last year, and I'm sure the coaches, while not condoning hazing, probably did encourage the players to play, study and party together, to help develop a sense of team.
As a survivor
of both fraternity and Navy Chief Petty Officer initiations, I can assure you that one man's hazing can be another's "rite of passage" into a select group. As part of that rite, people are put into varied, stressful situations to demonstrate to the rest of the group their ability to adapt. Who knows, they may be working some day in a life or death situation.

Its also interesting that under NU's hazing policy [based on Illinois law], military boot camp, survival training, infantry school, Army parachute jump school and various Special Forces training evolutions would be prohibited.

But its easy for kids who don't understand the difference between creating a "rite of passage," and hazing, to run afoul of the authorities.

Most fraternity initiations are held with alumni present, and Senior Military closely monitor events at their "initiations." They provide a tempering force and the rule at most of these events is "what happens here, stays here." [Almost all Navy CPOs will only talk about their initiation with other CPOs.]

I wasn't at the Soccer party, don't know anyone who was there and I doubt we'll ever know who crossed the line, and when they crossed it, if they actually did commit "hazing."

Of course I'm sure there will be those who will point to some "evil atmosphere" in all college athletics, with the "porn curriculum," supposedly taught at NU, as one source of inspiration for the events.
But then I have another problem about all this.
The web site that "broke the story," Badjocks.com, is one of those sites that claims to find humor in the various legal infractions by college and pro athletes - their motto is "Where COPS meets SportsCenter."

Right now, they're advertising their "Dirty Dozen," 12 more colleges that will have their "initiation pictures" posted. The site also features links to online gambling, including a sports betting service, and DUI lawyer referral services.

They have a Blood Alcohol Ranking - listing the 10 highest BAC readings by athletes, and even a "Badjocks Scoreboard" showing counts of various athletes infractions.

I call the time between College Football Spring Games and the start of summer camp, Police Blotter time -- its when every infraction by any college athlete gets "top of the sports page" billing because there's no other team news. Some of these infractions are serious and point up issues of personal responsibility. Others would not be reported if the kid hadn't been an athlete.

I really don't see any good reason to drag any public person's reputation through the mud.

To condem the entire college athletic process because some party pictures got on the internet is just plain wrong!

And I hope the NU investigation of all this, leads to a better understanding of the issue, and not just the finding of a scapegoat.
-- da Coach [Also published on CoachRoy.org. with additional information]
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