No room for hazing in sports

It can be embarrassing, demeaning, or cause physical injury.  It's against the law in 44 states.

So why is hazing so common in sports? It's hard to know how common it is because of the reluctance of many of those hazed to acknowledge that it happened, but a 2000 study by Alfred University says 80 percent of college athletes and 40 percent of high school athletes had been subjected to some form of hazing.


One theory that has been suggested is that hazing increases team cohesiveness.

A paper published in the December 2007 Journal of Sport Behavior summarized a study that concluded that not only does hazing not increase cohesiveness, it reducesit.


Another theory is that it confirms an athlete's absolute loyalty to the team and willingness to do anything to stay part of it.

"I know we can do better," sports psychologist Aynsley Smith of Mayo Sports Medicine said. "Coaches have to find positive ways of team-building and not allow these kinds of activities."

Hazing popped up in the news recently when the entire Elk River football team was suspended for a time due to hazing in the program. Eventually, four players were suspended for the season, two for one game and three for four games. Five of the program's 12 coaches, including the head coach, were under paid leave until a special school board meeting Tuesday night in which it was announced the five plus one other coach were being disciplined, but will be on the field for the next game.

We contacted a couple of longtime area football coaches to ask them their views on hazing. They spoke clearly.

"I believe that hazing divides and does nothing to strengthen a team," Kasson-Mantorville's Ivan Kroulik said. "A real challenge for any coach is trying to stay one step ahead of his players, knowing what's going on off the practice/game field.

"Maybe the Elk River situation has shown players, parents and coaches that hazing is viewed as a serious behavior."

"I do not see any value in it," Grand Meadow's Gary Sloan said, "and would have little respect for any coaches that allow it to happen."

For those not inclined to prevent hazing because it is wrong, maybe legal ramifications like loss of job or lawsuits will help, Smith said.


Most of us would seem to agree there is no good reason for hazing. But how does it still take place?

Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist for over 20 years, is a leading expert in the field of hazing. On her website , she says:

The blueprint of hazing states that the newcomer, or victim, is hazed. Once accepted by the group, the victim becomes a bystander, and watches as others get hazed. Eventually, the bystander achieves senior status and power, and becomes a perpetrator.

They do onto others what was done to them, and they feel as though they have the right and duty to pass on the tradition.… Each hazing brings with it the possibility of a new twist. Perpetrators want to leave their mark on the tradition, and therefore they may add or change the tradition, slightly.

Lipkins adds:

Hazing is more intense than it was many years ago. Research shows that kids who have contact with adults who support hazing are more likely to be hazed. Hazing has become more aggressive and more sexualized in the past 15 years. Don’t assume that if you did it, your kids could/should do it.

This must change. We must prevent injuries — even  deaths — that have occurred through extreme hazing practices, or less-extreme ones that got out of hand or led to unexpected accidents.

We must avert the psychological toll taken on the victims of hazing: self-esteem, self-confidence,


feelings of self-worth, group unity, respect, friendship, trust, pride, family interaction, trust with authority and coping skills.

"It's a quiet thing," Smith said of the psychological injuries. "I think some are seeking help (long after the event.)"

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