The Andover, MA high school basketball team is the latest to make news for using a degrading sports ritual in the name of initiation and team building- Hazing.
The very definition of the word “hazing” has changed since I was a teenager and probably even moreso since my father or grandfather was young.
Hazing was used to create a bond, to initiate a relationship of trust between the freshmen and the upperclassmen.
Athletes, like soldiers, find a bond through shared tribulations and working together as a team on the field, court or battlefield. First-year players haven’t had the shared experience of battling together, of developing a trusting bond with their teammates. So, older teammates would jumpstart that relationship by hazing. A minor tribulation would lead to a bond being manufactured between the experienced players and the new freshman teammates. Something as simple as blindfolding a freshman and having him freefall backwards into the arms of waiting upperclassmen would prove “you can trust us” and thusly a bond is forged.
Is the concept too big for today’s kids? The very meaning of “hazing” is now associated with torture and traumatizing a young adult. With so many examples of incidents in recent years, in regards to physical and emotional violence in the name of intiation and comradery, are our youth athletes the ones to lay blame on for the distortion in what we still call hazing, although hazing is significantly different, in name and practice, than in times past?
Or have modern day teenagers’ parents forgot that it used to be fun and harmless and served a purpose? And have they neglected to inform and instruct their children as such?
No matter who is to blame, often, nowadays, young men and women are being adversely affected by the rite and are being injured physically and mentally.
Maybe who’s at fault is insignificant. And maybe it’s time to eliminate all gray areas and outlaw the practice before more fall victim to the negative effects of hazing.