What started as a debate between whitewashing a boys-being-boys moment has escalated into something far more serious that should change the way people view youth sports. Sayreville is a blue-collar town in New Jersey that treats high school football as a religion.
The superintendent of schools shocked the community when he first cancelled a game and then the entire football season cryptically citing “widespread and pervasive” incidents of bullying and harassment within the school’s football program. That led to an outcry from parents who seemingly were unaware of the true nature of the incidents because they clamored to have the season reinstated.
The prevailing attitude was summed up by one parent who said “No one was hurt. No one died. I don’t understand why they’re being punished. I think that the forfeited game was punishment enough.” Others moaned the cancelled season would affect their sons’ college scholarship opportunities.
I’ll give these parents the benefit of the doubt and believe they were unaware of the true nature of the offenses and their attitude was simply the manifestation of what is wrong with youth sports. If people simply step pack and consider the magnitude of the superintendent’s actions, a reasonable person must deduce there is more to the story than simple hazing.
However, most of us are blinded by the hope and dream of sports stardom for our children and forget the one, most important word: Children. How anyone would put a scholarship opportunity in front of a human being that was violated is beyond disgusting. But that is the problem with today’s parents. We think in fantasies and not realities.
After the allegations of sexual assault came to light some parents were still downplaying the seriousness of the matter. Boys-being-boys include hijinks in the classroom, harmless pranks, and wise guy attitudes but sexually attacking freshman teammates crosses the line by light years. According to the allegations, seniors would enter the darkroom, howl, turn off the lights and grab a freshman. They would restrain him and an upperclassman would shove his finger in his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.
After reading that description, can you, in good conscious, fight to have the football season reinstated? Today, seven players were charged with a litany of crimes including aggravated sexual assault which is a first degree crime and even a juvenile would face up to five years in jail if found guilty.
I think the parents have a much larger issue than their child’s scholarship opportunity going out the window. I think at this point, those seven families – and possibly more to come – have a different set of priorities. But here is the kicker. The player and his family who came forward with the information wish to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions.
The fact they have that fear tells you all you need to know about the lunacy surrounding youth sports. Youth sports is a great way to teach children the important lessons of life which are hard work, dedication and focus on improving are traits that can be helpful later in life when junior is working for a living. The fact his team won games does not help on a resume. The traits learned and earned in youth sports is what transcends life. Everything else is ego bait.