Football coach cuts entire team to teach them a lesson

September 27, 2013

How far would you go to guide kids in your charge to be nice?

One high school football coach last week went pretty far, and took his entire team’s jerseys away after being told a few of the boys were cyberbullying another student. All of the JV and varsity team members would have to earn their spots back.

Coach Matt Labrum, the coach at Union High in Roosevelt, Utah, didn’t know who was doing the bullying, nor did the school. But between that complaint and hearing that some of the players had been slacking in class, he metaphorically slapped those kids across the face.

The story, first reported in the Deseret News, has taken on a life of its own.

I called the school this morning, and heard an overwhelmed voice on the other end. CNN is calling. Other news outlets, parents, strangers are calling and e-mailing. “It’s homecoming and we have a school assembly. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible, but that’s been hard,” the woman who answered the phone told me.

So why all the hubbub? Could it be because of recent stories about suicides tied to bullying?

Between horrific shootings, terrorism and frankly, just reading comments attached to stories on this very Web site, it’s hard not to lose a little faith in humanity. Remember the days when insulting someone was actually pretty difficult? And not so anonymous? Much like Louis CK, who explains in a smart monologue why he doesn’t let his kids use smart phones, I know I’m not alone in thinking our technology allows kids — and adults — to do some major damage to other human beings.

“The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field,” the coach told his players. Then he gave them a plan for earning their jerseys back so they could play.

The boys were, according to the school’s press release, “required to attend all practices, take part in a character education course, give service to the grounds of a local junior high school, and visit the elderly in two ... housing facilities.” The kids were required to “be on time and prepared, to show improvement in their academics, give service to their family through a method of their choice, memorize a quote related to character, and attend team study hall.”

By Wednesday, all but 10 players out of 80 had earned their jerseys back.

In a way, he’s showing the kids that its cool to be of strong character.

So how far would you go to keep a kid from chipping away at the human-ness of one another? From making another kid feel “less than?” It’s great what this coach did.

But why does one have to scare kids into the idea of not playing football to make them be decent?

Amy Joyce is the editor and a writer for On Parenting.
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