Broughton football coach Billy Lane, and other area high school coaches, said the attention created by accusations of bullying on the Miami Dolphins football team has given them the opportunity to talk to their players about bullying.
“We’ve used the Miami Dolphin case to begin a dialogue with our players about hazing/bullying,” Lane said. “My offensive line coach (Jon McCoy) talked extensively with his group yesterday about a story he came across identifying offensive linemen as the worst offenders when it came to hazing/bullying among position groups.
“He discussed how that is not the model we wish to emulate in our program. We can have tough, hard-nosed kids without crossing over into hazing/bullying each other.”
The N.C. High School Athletic Association has made hazing a point of emphasis in recent years. Que Tucker, the deputy commissioner of the NCHSAA, periodically reminds coaches throughout the state that in North Carolina hazing is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Many area high school coaches discuss bullying and hazing with their teams early in the season, but former East Carolina University football coach Steve Logan recently said on his radio program that you can’t address bullying and hazing too much.
He said it is like spraying for cockroaches. You have to do it routinely.
“There is a cockroach somewhere in your locker room,” Logan said on his show. “If you ignore it, they are going to be everywhere. You’ve got to spray regularly.”
Lane said his anti-bullying message is part of the “carrying the flag” talk when he discusses how high school athletics are a visible part of the school.
“The football program is (or can be) the front porch of the school, and we have an obligation to conduct ourselves with that in mind,” he said.
Knightdale coach Rob Senseney said he talks with his team about bullying before each season starts, and reminded this year’s players the consequences of bullying a few weeks before the Miami incident.
“We don’t tolerate bullying, and that’s one of the two things that can get you kicked off my team,” Senseney said. “It’s the one thing you can’t play with. From high school to college, it’s a locker room atmosphere and sometimes you can just catch someone in the wrong mood and it can just go too far.”
Senseney said the best tool for discipline is at times as simple as proximity.
“We have our office right outside the locker room door,” he said. “You can tell when a kid’s not happy about something, and we tell the kids our door is always open to come talk about things.”
Cary coach Kurt Glendenning said he tells his players that bullying is not permissible. He stressed the message to all of the Cary athletes when he was the school’s athletic director and has continued to stress it as football coach.
“You have to use your eyes and ears in the locker room and be sensitive to what is going on,” Glendenning said. “And it is not just in the locker room and with your teammates, it is all the time. Even on social media.”
Jason McGeorge, the Heritage coach, said the social media aspects makes it more difficult to deal with bullying.
“The social media is the hardest part of bullying to stop,” McGeorge said.
He said he and his coaches try to be very aware of the the relationships between players. They walk through the locker room and try to notice changes in relationships or in players’ demeanor.
“As you do these daily activities, as coaches we can get a feel on what is happening around a team,” McGeorge said. “We can gauge if a player is beginning to remove himself or is becoming less comfortable.”
McGeorge said coaches have to be proactive. “Too many bad things can happen after the fact,” he said.
Although hazing is a crime in North Carolina, McGeorge and Lane said they doubt that many players who bully others think they are doing anything wrong. They don’t recognize their actions as hazing or as bullying.
“Most teens don’t see it as bullying or as something worthy of punishment,” Lane said.
“That’s why as coaches we must have an open door for our players so they feel comfortable coming to us with any issue,” McGeorge said.
Staff writer Aaron Moody contributed