The Hamilton High School football hazing situation is a disgrace to every athlete, coach and administrator who’s ever played, coached or supervised.
I’ve held off on writing about the situation because, well, quite frankly, it’s taken me some time to digest what’s been going on, and it’s taken me time to figure out exactly how I feel about it.
I'm a former football player and coach and I’ve spent the majority of my life in and around athletics, as a player, coach, announcer and broadcaster. In nearly four decades, I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve heard stories lately across the country of similar situations, but I have never had any experience that even comes close to this.
In my experience, “hazing” has always been a fun, light-hearted situation, like standing up and singing, or carrying someone’s gear to and from practice. In fact, my coaches never allowed “hazing” in any form, and I followed suit in that regard. I never approved or sanctioned of any type of hazing.
So, after taking some time to think through what’s happened (at least what we know of it), here are some of my thoughts:
1. First and foremost, I feel sick to my stomach, and my heart aches for the kids who were forced to suffer through this degrading and awful ugliness. I feel for their parents and their families as they try to make sense out of something that should have never (in a million years) happened. How do you ever heal from this? It goes without saying that this is something no one should ever have to go through.
2. I’m still struggling to understand who in their right mind would think of something like this, and then actually carry it out. It’s beyond my comprehension that kids would take part in this type of “hazing” and, and beyond that, that no one would step up and say, “this is flat-out wrong.”
3. I’m appalled at the acceptance of this from other kids who saw these things happening, or who watched on Snapchat, Instagram or other social media sites and didn’t have the nerve to stop it.
4. I’m disgusted that the coaches allowed this to happen right under their noses for 17 months. Either they didn’t know it was going on, or they didn’t think what was going on was serious enough to put an end to.
5. Bottom line for me: How can something like this go on for so long without anyone stepping up and stopping it?
6. As a former coach, I know that supervision is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of the job:
a. In your very first education class, you’re taught that you are responsible for supervising students and athletes whenever they’re in your care.
b. Supervision should never be taken lightly, or for granted.
7. So, how does this go on for 17 months without any of the coaches catching wind of it? You’d have to be completely out of touch with your players to not hear anything!
8. Knowing your athletes and understanding who they are as people, and what makes them tick, is a critical part of your job. How is it that not one member of the coaching staff knew this was going on?
9. With that said: In my opinion, the coaches are just as culpable as the people inflicting the harm *IF* they weren’t supervising players and *IF* they knew any type of “hazing” was going on.
10. As far as the administrators are concerned: Simply put, the buck stops here. This was happening at your school on your watch.
To me, this is an absolutely unforgivable situation in which (at least from what I can see from the outside looking in) so many people are responsible. To blame only the coaches or administrators would be just as unacceptable as it would be to only blame the players who were inflicting the harm.
There must be retribution and accountability. There must be consequences and there must be serious change at Hamilton High School.
Saying there are no easy answers is a cop-out. The facts are the facts.
Frankly, this situation has cast a shadow of concern and doubt over Hamilton High School and the entire Chandler School District. Steps must now be taken to ensure the safety and security of kids within the school, and to punish those involved.
I encourage and welcome your thoughts and reactions. This has kept me up at night wondering how this could have ever happened!