Northwestern Women's Soccer Team Initiation
Why is it important to highlight the photos
The issue is not to further humiliate the
victims or perpetrators. The goal is to wake up the
authorities, who act as sleeping giants. It is the
responsibility of all involved to realize and stop
the hazing practices which are embedded in all
sports; in teams for girls and boys, in high
school, college and in professional sports as well.
Each time we do not react to these kinds of
findings we are condoning hazing. Each time the
school reacts in a mild way, saying that we have to
"trust our students" they are covertly accepting
hazing. This would not be so bad if we did not know
that there are dangerous activities that occur
during hazings. Activities that end up with
students being beaten, branded, overdosed on
alcohol and sometimes students die. The point of
exposing these activities is not to get the
individuals in trouble. No, it is to get them to
see the error in their judgement, and to train the
professionals who work with our children to see and
Why are these photos so significant?
This album demonstrates the process of hazing.
It shows the multiple steps taken by those being
initiatied and reveals the time and effort that was
used to plan the hazing event. The total album is
similar to an archeologist finding a total
dinosaur, instead of just a few bones.
How does hazing happen?
Hazing is a process that occurs in all kinds of
groups in which there is a hierarchy or pecking
order. The senior members who have status and power
want to teach junior members "respect." They also
feel that they have the right and duty to pass on
the tradition of initiation to the new members.
This empowers them to do onto others what has been
done to them. I call this cycle the "blueprint of
hazing." Victims become bystanders, watching the
next group get hazed.
Eventually, they become the perpetrators, doing
the hazing onto others. Then students pack up their
hazing experiences and take it with them from high
school to college, the military and the
Do the colleges know about these
Most administrators will deny knowledge of such
activities, and often they will say that they are
"isolated incidents." However, it is difficult for
anyone passing these girls to assume that the are
all willingly walking around in their undies with
t-shirts that have demeaning words scribbled on
them. Therefore I believe that it would not be very
difficult for some members of the college staff to
find such activities, and at least consider the
possibility that a hazing was in progress. The fact
that so many teams post their initiations on the
internet clearly demonstrates that hazing in
athletics is part of the culture, and not "isolated
What do college coaches and athletic
directors do to prevent hazing?
Almost all schools and teams will have a policy
that prohibits hazing. Some teams have contracts
which students sign that clearly states that hazing
is not acceptable. However, little anti-hazing
education is actually done in most settings. I
believe the problem occurs because:
1. Many Directors of Athletics and coaches have
themselves been hazed and hazed others. They
believe that it is not so bad and may even help
unite the team. Therefore they themsleves feel that
rule is simply part of being
"politically correct" rather than a policy
created to protect the safety of the students.
Consciously or unconsciously the coaches deny,
ignore or misinterpret the obvious signs of hazing
and act as though it is not happening.
2. There is very little time, money, or effort
given by the schools and athletic teams to educate
the athletes. The NCAA found that 79% of their
athletes had experienced hazing prior to college.
Therefore the task is to change the expectations of
the new students while changing the traditions of
the old students.
3. I would like to emphasize the lack of money
given to hazing prevention. Think about how much
money universities spend to recruit top athletes,
to maintain their fields, to hire the best coaches,
and to create winning teams. Think about the amount
of money earned from advertising and other sports
related revenue. Now consider how much money is
given to hazing prevention. For those who don't
know, I would be surprised if $1000 a year is spent
on hazing education in athletics at any school.
Who is responsible for hazing
I believe we all are responsible. Parents need
to teach their children about hazing and they need
to communicate that hazing is not acceptable,
despite the fact that they may have survived their
own hazings. Hazing has become more violent and
more sexualized in the past ten years, and it is
more likely to skid into the hazardous zone.
Coaches, athletic directors and school
administrators of high schools and colleges are
responsible to integrate hazing prevention into
their programs in a continuous and meaningful
Everyone needs to realize that hazing is for
losers. Hazing may lead to students being put in
jail or in the hospital. Hazing may lead to
athletes losing their seasons and scholarships.
Hazing often ends up in coaches losing their jobs.
Schools lose their reputations. As I said, hazing
is a lose-lose situation.
I believe the federal government should be
funding hazing prevention and intervention
programs. A national 800 reporting system should be
created, as is done with child abuse and domestic
violence. One definition of hazing would also be
helpful. Appropriate consequences which are
meaningful and a deterrent should be
What should the public/audience do?
My hope is that the parents of student athletes
would start making demands on the athletic
establishment to properly train coaches and
athletes. There is no system of checks and
balances. Often coaches and captains engage in
behaviors which are demeaning, ridiculing,
humiliating and even physically dangerous. The
public accepts this as a way to train tough
athletes. However there is no other system that
accepts abusive behavior as a method of teaching
students. Teachers or parents would be arrested for
some of the behaviors which occur on athletic
teams. If we do not demand ethical and appropriate
behaviors from athletic leaders, then how can we
demand such behavior from students?
Isn't some hazing acceptable?
Hazing occurs on a continuum, from mild to
severe. When students dress up as babies, or boys
dress up as girls, many people think this is
harmless. Perhaps it is, however it is rare that
hazing ends there. Usually the dressing up part is
simply the "warm-up" activity. The purpose of
hazing is for the leaders to demonstrate their
power and control over those who have less status.
As the hazing continues the activities may still
appear mild but may have severe consequences. For
example, it is common to lock new members in a
locker. In 2005, this happened on a high school
basketball team, though it went a little further.
The vents were covered with materials which were
soaked in a fragrance and which did not allow new
air to circulate. The boy ended up with an asthma
attack and in the hospital. Similarly, in April
2006, I heard of a hazing which began as many do.
Students ate onions covered in hot sauce and other
spicy substances. One student passed out and
couldn't breathe. Thankfully he was taken to a
hospital, where his asthma was controlled. Either
of these students could have died. No one meant to
harm them and the hazing activities appeared to be
mild, yet one cannot predict the reaction that
another student may have.
Why do teams post their initiations on the
It seems that the students do not perceive this
initiation as fitting the definition of hazing.
They do not seem to recognize the demeaning and
degrading aspects, nor do they take seriously the
issue of underage drinking, providing alcohol to a
minor, or engaging in drinking games which make it
difficult to gauge when someone's blood alcohol
level may be at a dangerous level. I assume that
they do not recognize this event as hazing because
they have not been exposed to ongoing and effective
If hazing is embedded in the culture of
sports then how can the colleges or coaches change
I wholeheartedly agree that changing a culture
and behaviors which appear to be the norm is
extremely difficult, however, it can be done. For
example, in the same age group, the government has
successfully created a campaign which has reduced
drunk-driving fatalities. Most kids incorporate the
concept that "friends don't let friend drive
drunk." Unfortunately, there is no such campaign
about hazing, which is often done by leaders who
are drunk or out of control.
What is hazardous hazing?
Hazardous hazing occurs when the activities
cause long lasting physical or psychological
damage. For example, in the Mepham hazing where
football players were sodomized with broomsticks,
pine cones and golf balls. More recently, The
McGill Football team lost their season due to "Dr.
Broom" another hazing in which brooms were used for
sodomy. In fact, many of the athletic hazings which
were reported during 2005 included various forms of
sodomy or sexual assault. Students who are involved
in these activities will be effected,
psychologically, for life.
How can adults know when a hazing will skid
into the hazardous zone?
We cannot know in advance. Just like we wear
seat belts whenever we drive because we cannot know
when we will have a car accident. In hazing, there
are no safety features, no seat belts, no airbags,
no designated drivers. This is why all hazing is
dangerous; because we never know when the events
will go too far, when an individual is too
Source: Dr. Susan Lipkins,
Related Issue: What
makes a good coach, Notable
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