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Shaking up school sports: In wake of ugly hazing incidents, a drive to stop “abusive coaching.”
It’s been a really bad run as of late for school sports in Massachusetts. In Duxbury, Danvers, Haverhill and everywhere in between, we have been deluged with growing reports of hazing, bullying, anti-Semitic and racist taunts - you name it.
Now a bill sponsored by state Sen. Cindy Creem would lay the groundwork for establishing some basic ground rules for school athletic programs when it comes to how coaches guide and teach students who play for them.
The old idea that student athletes will absorb life-long, positive lessons in sportsmanship and character by osmosis isn’t cutting it anymore. And while there are a lot of great high school coaches out there, there is still too much latitude given to the screamers and locker bangers, especially if they win games.
Under the proposal, state education officials would publish guidelines for “social and emotional learning curricula” that the could be used by middle and high school athletic programs that choose to opt in.
We are talking about what should be noncontroversial stuff, like fostering a safe and supportive team culture and encouraging students to speak up when the see something that shouldn’t be happening.
“We have been reading about all these issues of anti-Semitism that are greater than what they were before, issues of hazing and racism, and we wanted to make sure the culture of sports teams is a safe and supportive environment,” Creem told Contrarian Boston.
State Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton)
Nonprofit GetPsychedSports is lobbying for the proposal under the “End Abusive Coaching” banner.
Khari Roulhac, president of GetPsyched, served for years as athletic director at Cathedral High in Boston and is now dean of students at Newton North High School. He argues that following the guidelines would not involve a lot of extra work. It could be something as simple as the coach forming a circle with the team to discuss things, and having players help plan practices.
“Imagine an English teacher screaming in your face about ‘Huck Finn,’” Roulhac told CB, noting that behavior that would be inconceivable in the classroom is too often tolerated on the playing fields.
“Something about school sports allows this untamed space,” Roulhac said, pointing to what he says is the need for guidelines and curriculum.
Mitch Lyons, a retired attorney who has spent decades coaching youth sports, launched GetPsyched in 2011.
Lyons argues the bill is needed to pull school sports into the 21st century.
After all, it seems pretty clear to us at CB that too many coaches are still acting like tin-pot dictators.
“The legislation presents an alternative to the current system if they (school districts) would like their sports teams to be part of the modern world,” he said.
A big question is whether the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, or MIAA, the well-entrenched nonprofit that governs school athletics, will get on board, or at least not privately lobby against the bill. There is surely a contingent of old-style coaches who will see this as meddling in their fiefdoms.
The Senate majority leader’s bill is now headed to the education committee and hopefully a hearing, so we will find out more then.
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