The Coach Speaks Out |
with Mike Lushington
An incident concerning a local high school sports team has provoked considerable written and more oral comment in recent weeks. I do not intend to comment directly on that situation because I believe that the authorities are dealing with it. I can only hope that policies are enacted to prevent such occurrences in the future.
Several weeks ago, we witnessed - over and over and over again - a brutal assault by one hockey player on another. A few days later, while the victim still lay in a hospital in a coma, the perpetrator, tears in his eyes, apologized. "I didn't mean to hurt him". This is the same person who was suspended for a time as a junior hockey player because he kicked another player, the same person who has been suspended several times earlier in his career for excessive violence. Watch that assault again, if you can bear to, and ask yourself about the sincerity of his plea. "I didn't mean to hurt him." Indeed.
But what disturbed me most about the whole situation was the reaction of hockey people from all over - from midget and junior coaches, players and executives all the way to the NHL. No one, of all the spokespeople I heard, expressed undue concern for that poor guy lying in a hospital with a broken neck, a concussion and a dread for what the future might have in store. Instead they all lamented about how unfortunate it was for this wonderful game. Some even expressed concern for the team that the aggressor played for, especially when the NHL handed down a suspension for the rest of the year. After all, he was one of the stars of a team heading into the playoffs.
The horrific situation concerning a university girl who had the temerity to try out for the varsity football team and got raped by several members of the team illustrates my concern even more clearly. The coach of that team dismissed the whole problem by commenting, in public, that after all, "She was a terrible football player." (That coach is currently suspended from his duties - I do not know what are the fates of the rapists - or of the victim.)
And then there is O.J. Simpson!
So what do members of a local sports team, a professional hockey player, and an unfortunate girl who dared to challenge the sacrosanct world of team sport have in common. They are all victims of society's acceptance that the world of team sport is one apart from the rules that govern the rest of us. Assault and rape are crimes out on the street; apparently in the locker room, on the playing field, or wherever teams get together, they are "part of the game", examples of "boys being boys".
Yes, sport provides a wonderful vehicle for developing all sorts of very important personal skills.I have coached, and have worked with other coaches, for a long time and I can attest to its value. However, if we continue to perpetrate the myth that the world of the sports team is a world apart, that it is not governed by the rules that do control the rest of our lives, there is a very strong danger that the benefits of the experience will be compromised by those who come to believe that they have the right to do certain things, simply because they are "on the team."
Mike Lushington, Dalhousie