Skip to main content

What would you do?

I love having my kids involved in sports. There is a great deal to be learned from the hard work and commitment required to be on team. Many of life’s important lessons can be found in competition. Pope John Paul II acknowledged this when he set up the Vatican Office of Sports. Unfortunately, there is an ugly side as well. The pursuit of victory can lead to bending the rules and turning a blind eye to inappropriate behavior. The problem seems to be more acute in high school team sports and other competitive activities than in independent club sports. Perhaps that is because the high school team experience, whether it is the football team or the chess team, is so intertwined with high school social dynamics. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

A high school athlete shows up at a team bonding party. It is at a senior team member’s home and is supposedly chaperoned. However, the team captain goes out and obtains beer for everyone. The athlete leaves as soon as she sees there is alcohol. She is the only team member to leave the party. Now what do you do? If she says anything to the school administration, the team will suffer disciplinary consequences, but it will be obvious who alerted the authorities since only one team member left the party.

She opts to just keep herself out of trouble. However, she also chooses to avoid team parties where there is likely to be drinking. The other team members openly talk about their drinking exploits throughout the season and occasionally make hurtful comments to her because she doesn’t join in. The coach endorses the party together mentality. The coach even makes veiled comments about her own clubbing exploits. The coach categorizes the non-drinker as a non-team player and harasses her for not participating enough in team social events.

The coach berates and bullies the players and encourages them to do the same to each other and to their opponents. The coach refers to other high school girls as “trolls”. She describes trolls as “the girls who are fat, have bad hair, bad teeth, and even sagging boobs.” She tells her team members that these “trolls” have no right to be at their parties. She encourages her team to think of the opponents as these “trolls”. She encourages the team members to make demeaning comments about the appearance of opponents. The coach also uses sexual innuendos to motivate the girls to win: “Winning is like kissing a really hot guy!”

The athletic director doesn’t want to hear about any issues until after the season is over. Broaching them now could threaten the team’s run at the championship title. He is very reluctant to question a winning coach. He calls the coach’s bullying “feeble attempts at sarcasm and just quirkiness.” So the athlete who doesn’t want to participate in drinking and bullying has limited options. She can suck it up and endure the hostile environment or she can leave the team. The option with the least negative social consequences is to finish out the season and never return to the team. Just close that chapter and move on. A sense of justice cries out for these offenses to be exposed and corrected, but the attempt to do so would have dire social consequences. The school administration would most likely label the issues as an individual’s problem and not a systemic problem so the social costs would probably not result in significant correction of any problems.

If a parent offered you this scenario, what would you recommend?

CLARIFICATION: The soccer team I have written about before is my daughter's club team and is nothing like the situation above. Club soccer has been a joy and tremendous benefit to my daughter. The situation above is an athletic team from a local high school.


Anonymous said…
My daughter Mary plays girls football..she's 13 & is doing well...go with your gut feelings..

God bless
Milehimama said…
THIS is not a good team experience that will build up your daughter. If she is unable or unwilling to speak up, you should. If she will speak up, you should back her all the way.
Someone needs to be made aware that the coach is a "Mean Girl" making more "Mean Girls" (if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean!). Also, out of charity for the other teammembers, who may not be that strong, someone needs to stop them from behaving this way.

Mama Says
Michelle said…
My kids are too young for me to offer any useful advice. I do look forward to learning from any of your experiences, though. I'm concerned about the peer pressure I've read about on girls at the college level to participate in homosexual activity (and if you don't you're not a team player). Sports are so good for girls through their developmental years...if things go sour in college (or in high school) it just seems so unjust that they would be faced with giving up something they love or suffer in order to participate (or compromise their souls to participate).
Barb, sfo said…
I'm guessing this is your daughter.
I put up with a lot of garbage in high school because I kept away from the drinking parties. My theory was, let those kids dig their own graves but I won't be part of it.
I'm assuming that this is the school and not the club. If so--you told me that it's the club team that is "scouted" and therefore the important one. I'd encourage your daughter to finish out the season just doing what she is doing--working hard in practice and games and avoiding the social stuff. And if the coach returns next year, leave it up to your daughter whether she wants to endure another year of this.
I was very impressed the other night at my son's track & field banquet when the head coach apologized for "losing his cool" at the most recent meet. He didn't want to behave like that in front of his team and their families. BUT apparently 3 kids on the team had money stolen at the meet, and this is why the coach lost it. (A good reason, I would say). But obviously he is trying to set an example for the kids and I appreciate that.
I wonder who the Patron Saint of Teens Facing Peer Pressure might be?
Catholic Mom said…

I thought of the movie Mean Girls as well. The movie was made as a caricature because high school girls really do act like this. It is inexcusable for an adult teacher or coach to join in the bullying. One would hope that by the time someone is in her thirties she could develop a more mature approach to interpersonal relations.
David Jackson said…
Thanks for the clarification. I was starting to feel like I was going to have to hop on a plane and find my niece's coach and pinch his/her head off.

I think it's not so much about team as it is about making good decisions in a fallen world. I work with heating contractors who would rather I meet them for lunch at a strip club than a regular restaurant. Now I need these guys for my business; however, I've drawn the line with them. They razzed me at first, but now they respect my position. Kids need to learn it's good to stand up for what's right.
Anonymous said…
I think that coaches now adays are really out for themselves or really trying to make a name for themselves. They dont really care about the kids anymore or care about self owned lesson the main goal is just winning.
Not saying that this is just their fault because usually coahes are pressured to win but they to must remeber winning isnt exactly everything.

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!