Tolerance and Hazing

Something that really bugs the heck out of me and flies in the face of both “Brotherly Love” and “Tolerance” has always been “Hazing”. As a coach, hazing is always lurking there in the shadows. It comes and it goes with classes and personalities, but I believe that we coaches need to be ever vigilant for hazing and send a real clear message at the first “wiff” its ugly odor. That message should be loud and clear that we don’t tolerate hazing in our program and in our school.

“Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics, but those days are long gone. Today we know that hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and the result is that someone always ends up getting hurt, physically, emotionally, or both.

Hazing is often an activity that a high-status member orders other members to engage in or suggests that they engage in that in some way humbles a newcomer who lacks the power to resist, because he or she want to gain admission to a group.

Hazing can be classified into three categories: subtle, harassment, and violent.

Subtle Hazing: Behaviors that emphasize a power imbalance between new members/rookies and other members of the group or team. Termed “subtle hazing” because these types of hazing are often taken-for-granted or accepted as “harmless” or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members/rookies on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members/rookies often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team.

Examples of Subtle Hazing:

  • Deception
  • Assigning demerits
  • Silence periods with implied threats for violation
  • Deprivation of privileges granted to other members
  • Requiring new members/rookies to perform humiliating duties
  • Socially isolating new members/rookies
  • Line-ups and Drills/Tests on meaningless information
  • Name calling
  • Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms
  • Expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession

Harassment Hazing: Behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members/rookies.

Examples of Harassment Hazing:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats or implied threats
  • Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire
  • Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts
  • Expecting new members/rookies to perform personal service to other members such as carrying books, errands, cooking, cleaning etc.
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sexual simulations
  • Expecting new members/rookies to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of bodily cleanliness.
  • Be expected to harass others

Violent Hazing: Behaviors that have the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.

Examples of Violent Hazing:

  • Forced or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption
  • Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault
  • Branding
  • Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions
  • Burning
  • Water intoxication
  • Expecting abuse or mistreatment of animals
  • Public nudity
  • Expecting illegal activity
  • Bondage
  • Abductions/kidnaps
  • Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection

Hazing only exists because parents, teachers and students permit it to exist. That may sound very harsh but unfortunately it is true. Parents need to demand that hazing be met with zero tolerance. Coaches and Teachers must not look the other way and ignore what can be passed off as school or team traditions. Students have to speak up and tell an adult when they see or hear of any form of hazing going on.

It’s that simple.

Do you remember what hazing felt like when you were a kid? Remember the humiliation and embarrassment?

I for one could have gotten by just fine without it… about you?