Representation means responsibility

Union High is currently without a football team. Coach Matt Labrum decided it was time to give his players a lesson in life:

Labrum knew that a few of his players were struggling with academic issues and attitude problems this season. Then, last week the coaches learned that a Cougar player or two might have used the social media website ask.fm to anonymously engage in cyber-bullying. The target was a Union student who is not on the team.

“It just felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going,” Labrum said. “We felt like we needed to make a stand.”

So after a tough home loss to Judge Memorial Catholic High School on Sept. 20, the coaches told all 80 varsity and junior varsity players to hand in their jerseys.

“We were looking at football as a right, rather than a privilege,” Labrum said.

Labrum has also outlined a fairly clear, strict path to redemption:

The entire team hadn’t been cut, though. When they met again with the coaches early the following morning they learned they had a chance to play again, but under some very specific terms.

A vote would be held to elect new captains. Players would perform acts of service for their families and document what they’d done. They would also take part in two days of community service in lieu of regular practices, attend a mandatory character-education class, a study hall session and memorize and recite a paragraph-long quote about the value of having good character.

Finally, they had to pledge to be to all practices on time, to demonstrate respect for their teachers, fellow students and members of the community and to maintain their grades.

“I think it’s going to bring our team closer,” Labrum said. “It think we’re going to be more accountable, not only for ourselves, but for our buddy next to us.”

Would that more of us had the guts to take such a stand. How are kids–boys or girls–going to learn their behavior is unacceptable if no one ever attempts to set them straight. Last night we took our cub scouts to a nearby nature preserve for a hike. They were okay on the hike (although I wouldn’t want to be the one to wash their clothes), but in the van on the way back they started getting beyond rowdy–they were coming close to tearing our van apart. We called them on it, and one boy responded, “This is just how boys play.”

This not our first group of cub scouts. We know better than that. Boys can be loud, wild, and have a perverse sense of humor, yes. But most of them understand there are limits.

My daughter later reported seeing several of the boys on their way home playing around in a neighbors’ yard and messing with their Halloween decorations. In their uniforms.

It may be time for a serious talk about representation and responsibility.

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