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?  




Related Radical Reads:

Check Out this Anti-Bullying PSA

Anti-Bullying PSA Materials [Lesson]

Teaching Students about Collaborative Dialogue [Lesson]

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