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Activity: Bullying Seminar for High School Football Players

All y'all HAVE heard about the bullying incident that is currently tearing apart the Miami Dolphins, right?  Second-year offensive lineman Jonathan Martin exploded at the training table this week, tired of two years worth of pretty extreme bullying from teammate Richie Incognito.  

The entire situation has led to some incredible conversations about the kinds of institutionalized bullying that happens in football locker rooms.  

Turn on any talk radio station and you'll hear future Hall of Famers justifying hazing as a "rite of passage" for rookie players, a form of "paying your dues" as a new member of an elite, physical profession.  Poke through the comment sections of any article describing Incognito's actions and you'll see Regular Joes arguing over "toughness" and "manning up" and "the wussification of America" as evidenced by Martin's choice to walk away instead of confront Incognito in a gladiator-style brawl.

As disturbing has the whole incident has been, the silver lining is that Incognito's behavior could ALSO serve as a powerful conversation starter for high school football teams.  

What I'm looking for are high school coaches and/or administrators who are willing to bring their players together to wrestle with just what being tough and manning up means.  With seasons just ending and planning for next year just beginning, thinking through our definitions of "team" and our expectations for how we can hold one another to high expectations in every circumstance makes a ton of sense.  Creating a safe space for that conversation to happen seems like a responsibility that every coach should embrace.

To help anyone interested in making this happen, I pulled together a few resources today:

A Culture of Bullying in the NFL? - This link connects to a handout version of an article on the culture of bullying in the Dolphins locker room written by Ty Schalter, Bleacher Report's lead NFL writer, that players can read BEFORE a team conversation happens.  It asks readers to annotate while reading, recording questions and reflections worth considering in the margins.  

Active Reading Behaviors Handout - This handout can provide guidance for players who aren't sure exactly what kinds of comments they should be making when they are reading the Culture of Bullying article.

Culture of Bullying Discussion Questions - This link connects to a collection of questions that can be used DURING a team discussion seminar.  Coaches or team leaders can use these questions to reignite discussions or to point the team in new directions if natural conversation between players stalls.

Culture of Bullying Reflection Handout - This link connects to a handout that players can use AFTER a team discussion to reflect on the strands of the conversation that resonated the most with them. It is designed to give individual players a chance to think more about their personal thoughts and ideas about the delicate balance between toughness and bullying.

(Note: All files will download automatically when links are clicked.  If they don't open automatically, check the "Downloads" folder for your Internet browser.)

Now all I need is a few brave coaches and/or administrators who are willing to use this stuff with their teams and then let us know how it went.  Know anyone who fits the bill?  

#fingerscrossed

#areYOUmanenough

__________________

Related Radical Reads:

Check Out this Anti-Bullying PSA

Anti-Bullying PSA Materials [Lesson]

Teaching Students about Collaborative Dialogue [Lesson]

2 Comments

Bill Ivey commented on November 12, 2013 at 9:34pm:

Thanks, Bill

Great piece and helpful resources!

I'll pretend you didn't give me an opening to riff on "Regular Joe" comments like "the wussification of America." You're welcome.

But I will say, to extend your main points into other areas, that my seventh grade Humanities students met with a sophomore English class today to talk about feminism, girls schools (of which, for those who don't know, we are one), gender identity, and the media. While talking about girls and coed schools, an extended parentheses opened up on sports culture. Lots of kids talked about elementary school P.E. teachers and town team coaches who simply wrote them off or who ourtright belittled them, basically for being girls. One of them, accurately from what I've heard from her and from our Athletic Director, characterized her treatment at one previous school as bullying by the coach, more so by far than the players. So this isn't just a peer-to-peer issue but a larger issue stemming from coaches, and I guess (with the "wussification" comment still on my mind) society as a whole. Long story short, I believe we have some cultural rebuilding to do in order to prevent the continuation of cultures of bullying. Any problem this pervasive needs to be addressed in multiple ways at multiple levels. And so, to return to your main points, I think the "culture of bullying" handout does a great job of addressing these issues from the specific perspective of a high school football team.

So thanks again!

Brianna Crowley commented on November 13, 2013 at 3:40pm:

CrossPost

Bill, 

I cross-posted this to CTQ's GOOD.is profile. Hope that sparks more conversation. 

I love the sequence and resources you provided--am forwarding to my colleagues who are coaching. 

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