Team gets rebooted after cyber bullying, other antics

Erin Smith

October 1, 2013

The members of one high school football program in Utah are getting some valuable life lessons, thanks to their coaching staff.

The coaches of the Union High School football program announced last week that they were suspending the football program after they learned that several members of the team had participated in cyber-bullying and other activities off the field that were termed “detrimental to the team.”

So after losing last week’s game, the coaches told the team they were not happy with their performance and told the members to turn in their jerseys and equipment. The players were told they could re-earn their spots on the team by performing various acts of community service.

The point of the exercise was to teach the team’s members about respect and good character traits.

While the coaches admitted they couldn’t determine which team members were behind the cyber attacks, the coaches also said those were not the types of individuals they wanted representing the team, hence the suspension of the football program. The coaches hope this life lesson will be one that will stick with the individuals for a lifetime.

I fully prepared myself to learn that some of the athletes in question were suing or that maybe some angry parents would confront the school over the suspension of the program. Instead I learned that, once the situation was explained to the parents, they were 100 percent behind the coaches. Good job parents!

So many parents today want to be their child’s friend instead of being a parent. Many parents today will become irate when a teacher or principal tries to instill discipline in their Little Johnny or Little Suzy. I honestly have to stifle a laugh when I overhear a parent talking about how unfair a particular teacher is because he or she expected the child to complete a homework assignment on time or to take part in classroom activities while conducting themselves in a proper manner.

I applaud the coaches at this high school for taking action instead of looking the other way on the issue. Many athletes today tend to believe that they can get away with any number of antics from acts of vandalism to date rape to bullying all because they are an athlete. They grow accustomed to the “hero worship” that comes with being a standout athlete and they have come to develop a sense of entitlement as many teachers and principals will look the other way for the sake of the school’s athletic prowess on the playing field.

Case in point: Several football players on the Steubenville, Ohio, team were recently convicted of raping a young lady at a party after she became heavily intoxicated. When the coaches were notified of what had taken place, they didn’t step in. As a matter of fact, the rape victim was harassed by classmates of the players in question and even citizens of the town were outraged that the victim was pursuing criminal charges. Even the local police were reluctant to investigate and did so only because of pressure from the local news media and the victim’s parents. Everyone tried to label it as “boys being boys,” only rape is a far more serious offense than a few harmless pranks.

I think it’s great that the coaches in Utah decided to be proactive and hand out a rather harsh but creative punishment to the entire team. Each member of the team was given a checklist of assignments to complete including taking part in community service and volunteer activities and no football practice sessions were allowed. No one was immune from the punishment either and they all had to earn their way back onto the team. It took the athletes losing something very important to them for them to understand that the activities they were engaging in off the field were inappropriate and unwelcome at this school.

I am happy to report that all of the players have now re-earned their jerseys and many had either completed their tasks entirely or had completed at least 90 percent of the required tasks handed to them by their coaches. The team was able to take to the playing field again, this time hopefully a little wiser, just in time for their homecoming game.

Erin Smith is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal. She can be reached by telephone at 910-862-4163 or by email at