Confronting Hazing & Bullying

Sean McCormick
3 min readApr 22, 2021
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Eric Kasperowicz, a high school football coach in western Pennslvania, has directed his team to a couple of state titles, four regional championships and has garnered a winning percentage of .825 over his eight seasons as a head coach with Pine-Richland high school. Kasperowicz has diligently risen to take a nationwide spot as one of the coaching elites on the high school gridiron. Nearly any coach in the country would have gladly traded places with Kasperowicz — until recently!

At a time of the year when football head coaches are running conditioning sessions for those players not in a spring sport, making certain all the equipment purchase request have been approve, and deciding on the intitial depth charts heading into summer everything came to a grinding halt in the time it takes to click open an email. The message was clear and concise. The school district’s administation made the decision not to renew Kasperowicz’s football coaching contract. While the decision would have no impact on his full-time teaching position, as he is employed with another school district, the email packed a punch which quickly resonated throughout the Pine-Richland district.

Initially the reason for dismissal was as murky as the Monongahela river after the annual spring thaw. Soon, two of the most dreaded words among coaches surfaced. Bullying! Hazing! The school district had been conducting an investigation into reports of alleged bullying and hazing incidents throughout the years Kasperowicz has been the school’s head coach.

There has been a lot of back-and-forth since the dismissal announcement. A number of former and current players have publicly shown support for the championship coach. The public stance orginally taken by the school district has been one of not discussing personnel matters. Kasperowicz released a public statement denying any hazing or bullying tactics during his eight years as the varsity football head coach. Every day there seems to be additional claims and counter-claims about the situation, and it will not be a surprise to see one or more parties to take a litigious route to resolution.

No one like to see a coach’s reputation raked over the coals. Likewise, no one likes to see bullying/hazing abuses go unpunished. What such a situation does is to serve as a reminder to coaches to take into account what preventative measures are/can be in place to prevent bullying/hazing. Many will point to the anti-bullying efforts declared by the school district. This isn’t enough.

Walk-the-Walk: Let players and parents know of your zero tolerance for bullying/hazing. A preseason meeting with parents and players in attendance should include a frank discussion of this topic. Parents and coaches cannot think in terms of what was permissable in locker rooms when they were in high school. You wouldn’t issue a circa 1975 suspension helmet to an athlete competing on a Friday night in 2021. So, why would you allow what my high school coach used to call ‘locker room grabass’ amongst your players today?

Talk-the-Talk: Words hurt! Spell it out clearly to parents and players. There’s a distinct difference between players joking around with each other and spouting hateful words. Don’t allow it! Don’t allow it from your staff, either!

Locker Room Patrol: Leaving a locker room unattended isn’t permitted. Make it part of the coaching duties of all your coaches. A different pair of coaches each week (having two coaches shuts down any player’s attempt at a denial) at the locker room door can assist in keeping everything orderly.

These are just a few suggestions of a preventative nature. The point is to make sure you’re not blindsided by an accusation of permitting bullying/hazing.

--

--

Sean McCormick

Turning the ‘complex’ into the ‘understandable!’ In Coaching & Leadership there is one constant — WRITING!