Lisa and I recently had the boys' soccer team over for a season wrap-up banquet, ie. pizza and Coke. In this photo the team is watching a great highlight video that their manager, Michael, made of them. I love the photo because it will help me remember how much fun we had this season and how far this team came as a unit. In many ways these young men acted more like a family than a traditional team. They took care of each other, laughed, pushed each other to improve, and backed each other up when the going got tough. Did they tease each other? Often. But they always seemed to be giving one another a hard time about their strengths rather than their weaknesses--I actually think this is one way boys show respect and kindness to one another. I was thinking of how fortunate we are to have this culture at Dublin today when contrasted with the stories of hazing and harassment that are emerging from our professional sports' teams.
For those people who fear that something will be "lost" from team sports if we collectively stop hazing younger or less experienced athletes, I would ask them to look at this picture and think about what can be gained when people like Coach Johnson, captains like Ben and Cem, and seniors like Charley, Tyler and Alex set a positive, fun and hardworking tone for a team. I would argue that leadership through kindness, leadership through example, and leadership through respect can create a team culture where everyone grows and teamwork thrives. The seniors on our team are seen as both accessible and larger than life by our younger players and I am confident that they will build on this culture of respect as they move into leadership roles on the team and in school. If you hear the talking heads on television asking what is lost when hazing is taken away, remind people that they are asking the wrong question.