Posted September 25, 2013

Utah high school football coach suspends entire team

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A high school football coach suspended his entire team. (Denver Post via Getty Images)

A high school football coach suspended his entire team for a “lack of character.” (Denver Post via Getty Images)

A Utah high school football coach suspended his entire team because players were showing a “lack of character,” reports the Deseret News‘ Amy Donaldson (via USA TODAY).

Matt Labrum, coach of Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, had all 80 players turn in their jerseys after last week’s 40-16 loss. Some players reportedly had been skipping class or had been involved in the cyberbullying of a fellow student.

“We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going,” Labrum told the Deseret News. “We felt like we needed to make a stand.”

Labrum met with players Saturday and gave them a letter outlining what they needed to do to earn their way back onto the team.

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An excerpt from the letter (via Donaldson):

“The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field. It is a privilege to play this wonderful game! We must earn the opportunity to have the honor to put on our high school jerseys each Thursday and Friday night!”

Instead of practicing this week, players are expected to do community service and attend study halls, Donaldson reports.


107 comments
ShifterKart
ShifterKart

Cyber bully like bully is a new catch phrase. People bash each other on facebook and on ones page and all they need to do is "block" the person or people from their page...

In a year or two there will be a new catch phrase. 

DSM
DSM

I understand the concept of collective responsibility, but hope the cyberbullies were punished separately and more for that specific misconduct than the players who neither did it nor knew about it.  The coach is obviously much closer to the situation than we are, but a mass benching of at fault starters in favor of bench players might be equally effective and more just..

Part of collective responsibility would be the coaches also performing community service, which I hope was done here.


gallgu
gallgu

Good job Coach.  You found a problem that was widespread within your teams culture and moved to correct it.  Kind of reminds me of the Coach Carter movie.  They are accountable as a team both on and off the field.  The only aspect of this action I would question is why aren't the coaches also doing community service alongside their players.  Are they not also responsible for the behavior of the team?

tfaw
tfaw

one day, eh?  we call that a bfd...

tornicade73
tornicade73

Actually what the coach did here was  set character building exercises as a requirement to play. This action wasnt a punishment at all to the "good" kids. because if they were good they would enjoy the community service and helping people. If they were good then they would appreciate the extra time for their studies.  What the coach did was do them a favor and let them earn and wear their jersey with pride.  He also "empowered" the alleged "good" kid to have more influence on the team when teammates are engaged in activities he finds embarrasing where before.


The coach gave the entire team a chance to wipe the slate clean and start all over. now the coach has created an environment of accountability that individual punishments didnt seem to be having any effect on the team overall.

to your original analogy.  If a company has  a percentage of employees not paying attention or focusing on their work or creating an environment where work cannot be done effectively. this company will lose money and if allowed to fester could put that company out of business. so yes it is very important for the good kid to learn that the bad things other people do around him does have an impact on him.  What the Coach required for everyone to earn their jerseys was no more punishing and probably less physicaly straining than "practice" If the good kid didnt want to earn hi jersey back he could always go find something to do with his free time.

mnhun
mnhun

I am so glad this coach thought of this. Doing good things for other people never hurt anyone. No matter how much anyone dislikes it, the coach is teaching them to have character and realize there are people out there who are less fortunate. These boys need to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them. Their actions do affect other people. I am also very thankful and proud of the parents of those boys who stood behind the coach. It was great to see something on TV that was showing the good people do instead of all the bad things on TV. I know those bad things go on, but a little good sometimes is refreshing.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

All of you applauding this coach:

Imagine you work in a group (division, whatever) of 80 people.  A fair number of your co-workers are cheating the company.  Your ability to know these people, let alone that they're behaving badly, let alone influencing the situation, is limited, because 80 people is a large group. 

Imagine the entire division gets canned.  To get your job back, you have to perform remedial ethics training, at your own expense, and sign an affadavit of some sort.

Rah-rah! Go team!

Or not.  I'll betcha most of you would be running (quite properly) to your lawyer.

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

High school athletes expected to act decently? That's probably the first time in decades in this country. 

theerichoward
theerichoward

Love this action by this coach. Hopefully this story keeps going to the talk show level and people realize that athletes are not above common decency or the law. What some pros and college athletes get away with is ridiculous. What an amazing story.

JuliusPierpont
JuliusPierpont

@TravisWilkinson "Missing scouts because of this"?  Do you really think that any scouts actually planning to visit Union High before this happened would miss their next game?  Athletic supporters?  (there's a joke there somewhere) - Have you read about it at all?  EVERYONE involved at the local level, including the players SUPPORTS the coach's decision, in fact just about everyone who is a team sports fan (of any sport anywhere) supports the decision.  Advertisers?  Do you think they should pull their ads on local radio or at the game with all the positive PR this decision has created?  I wouldn't be surprised if the coach gets a raise and the town commissions a bronze statue of him.

BrooksTaylor
BrooksTaylor

Very cool story. Love that this coach demands his kids be good citizens as well as football players.

WendyShields
WendyShields

I 100% agree. My son is bullied he is so down on himself because of others actions. This coach is teaching these kids to be responsible for their actions... That really doesn't happen much anymore.

David Vincent
David Vincent

As one who has been coaching at this level for over 30 years I commend Coach for his actions and taking this opportunity to teach these young men what life is all about. It isn't about the X's and O's or the winning and loosing, it is all about what the Jimmy's and Joe's and developing these "boys" into responsible men. Kudos Coach!

TravisWilkinson
TravisWilkinson

Everyone who had nothing to do with the problems should demand this coach be sacked, maybe even tarred and feathered. Contact all your athletic supporters, advertisers, and especially if any of you might be missing scouts because of this. 

00dave
00dave

How in world are there some that don't get what this coach was trying to do. These posters likely have a very limited (or no) experience with team sports and specifically football. When one guy jumps offsides the entire team runs. If there are too many mistakes (turnovers, penalties, etc) the entire team runs. Yes, even those who didn't even step foot on the field during the game.

What coach did makes complete sense to anyone that has played any kind of team sport. I can't believe that some would argue that it's not fair and wrong to punish the entire group this way or that the coach is trying to gain some sort of fame by doing this. Amazing.

Those that don't get it are likely the same kind of parent that would threaten to sue a homeowner who reposted tweets about a bunch of kids who broke into his house, vandalized it and posted it to their Twitter timelines. Oh wait, that happened last week.

Good to see the majority of posters agree with this coach's actions and there are very few who just don't get it.

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@tornicade73 - No, he punished the kids who had done nothing wrong.  Those "good" kids don't need to do community service work to prove what they already are.  Suspend the kids involved in the alleged wrong-doing, but don't put the stigma on to the innocent, too.  The whole team didn't need to wipe the slate clean, as the whole team wasn't involved in the bullying.  If some of your co-workers committed a fraud, would you appreciate the opportunity to accept their punishment as your own? 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@tornicade73

 "The coach gave the entire team a chance to wipe the slate clean and start all over. now the coach has created an environment of accountability that individual punishments didnt seem to be having any effect on the team overall"

If I'm doing nothing wrong, I don't want to start over.   And I shouldn't be forced to do extra work to do so.

As for the company analogy, if it were YOU were getting punished and publicly called out for your co-workers' screw-ups, I somehow doubt you'd be so philosophical about being "empowered" and "earning your jersey."

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@mnhun  

So, if your son was one of the good kids, you'd be OK with him being punished.  Even if he did what he was supposed to, and wasn't big/tough/popular enough (this IS high school, and a football team at that) to influence the bad kids.  Then get told, "It's a team effort!  One guy screws up, you all pay!"  

What kind of lesson does that teach, besides that justice should not be subordinated to good judgment?


drmiller166
drmiller166

@MidwestGolfFan And when your company is doing terrible, they can shut down - despite the outstanding individual performances of some of the employees.  That's life.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

P.S. Also, imagine that this theoretical company publicly impugns the integrity of the innocent alongside the guilty, saying "this is a team effort."  Just because kids aren't playing "for keeps" yet doesn't mean they have no right to just treatment.  If I were a parent of one of the good kids, I might consider suing the coach for defamation.

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@wlewisiii - The problem is, the innocent are being lumped in with the guilty.

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@theerichoward - You approve of punishing innocent people?  Yes, punish the guilty, but don't tar the innocent with the same brush.  The only thing that's amazing is that the coach still has his job.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@JuliusPierpont @TravisWilkinson  

Wow.  Such enthusiasm.  I wonder how the kids who did nothing wrong feel about this, and about your ideas.  

But I guess if they're "Team Players," they're wholeheartedly behind this character-building exercise (everyone is guilty in the collective!) and your idea of a bronze statue.

I'm guessing the football team is going to have a lot fewer good kids on it next year.

TBarrett
TBarrett

@TravisWilkinson Or, the players who haven't done anything wrong should demand that the players, who are in the wrong, to clean up their act. That way, they can get back onto the field at a quicker pace, and everyone will be doing the right thing; both on the field, and off the field. That is sure to please a scout much more than watching a team with many players who are known for disgraceful actions off the field.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@00dave  

Punishing everyone for one person's minor mistakes is a hallmark of incompetent leadership and lack of imagination.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

@MidwestGolfFan @tornicade73 It's called peer accountability. I don't know what career you're in that doesn't have this key concept embedded in their philosophy but in the rest of the world we try to police our peers because THEIR failure quickly escalates into OUR failure.

akattack
akattack

 @tornicade73 "If I'm doing nothing wrong, I don't want to start over.   And I shouldn't be forced to do extra work to do so."

Then stick to golf. Don't play team sports. If
 you have ten guys on a football field busting their asses and one mailing it in, you're going to lose. The ten who were doing their job will suffer because of the one who didn't. 

drmiller166
drmiller166

@MidwestGolfFan @mnhun Football is a team sport.  You succeed as a team.  You fail as a team.     If you play great and do your job on every play - sometimes your team still loses.  This is another example of that.  

akattack
akattack

@MidwestGolfFan @mnhun "So, if your son was one of the good kids, you'd be OK with him being punished."

If this kind of behavior was permissible by the peers of the bad players, then there were no good kids -- just a team full of bullies and cowards. They deserve to be ashamed of themselves.

Would I be okay with him being punished? Why not? My children are not above reproach. Aside from the humiliation of losing his place on the team, I would expect him to at the very least, confront the students doing the bullying for their behavior and apologize to the student being harassed for not saying anything.

I'm sorry, but I am not raising any spineless children. 

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@drmiller166 @MidwestGolfFan - Or they can shed the under performing employees.  And this is the high school football team, not Barings.  To take a limited time opportunity away from those that did nothing wrong is Draconian.

baltzma01
baltzma01

@MidwestGolfFan Just a different perspective.

1.  Sometimes good people get hurt as when a company shuts down for breaking the rules (i.e. tax evasion, OSHA violations). 

2.  The coach did not come to this decision with the intention of punishing those who did no wrong. Almost any decision in life has unintended byproducts; doesn't mean you shouldn't make any.

3.  If you were to punish individually, then there would those claiming discrimination or unfair level of punishment compared to another. That and the fear of being fired keep most from giving any level of punishment at all.

4.  Also, doing community service and study halls is not a punishment. It creates a good habit of helping the community and increases kid's grades. 


2Rugger
2Rugger

@MidwestGolfFan @00dave I'm sorry. I usually try to avoid commenting on these things because they're too time-consuming, but I just can't wrap my head around how you can only take away the negative aspect of this story. Have you ever actually played on a team (I'm assuming maybe golf)? I've played as part of a team(s) for most of my life, and I have to agree with Dave on this one. Granted, it usually means running another lap around the field or doing extra pushups in the freezing cold, but this is about character. The kids who weren't part of the problem were probably pretty upset--but you know what, they already practice good behavior and values, and they're probably mature enough to see the bigger picture. Besides, senior citizens tell some of the greatest stories; it couldn't have been a terrible "punishment." The players already practicing good behavior/those who realized their mistakes earned that jersey, and their peers (should) respect them a hell of a lot more for it.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

@MidwestGolfFan @M as in Mancy @tornicade73 

The underlying premise of this article and the coach's actions imply that the bystanders were aware of their peers' actions and didn't do enough. 

And admittedly peer accountability and leadership is one of the toughest things to do in a workplace, but it's the bedrock of good organizations. And I guarantee that it's what separates perennial Superbowl teams from the bottom dwellers. Or my military unit vs yours.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@M as in Mancy @MidwestGolfFan @tornicade73 

Teamwork means trying to straighten out the bad guys -- IF it's in your power to do so.  If you can't it's OK to abandon them, or allowing authority to squash them, to preserve the integrity of the team.  

I'm guessing it's starters messing up here.  No coach upends a team this way for easily-cut subs.  That's the problem.  In high school, stars ignore the subs and also-rans, who not-so-incidentally, are probably smaller, less-athletic, and less belligerent.  High-blown notions of teenage leadership only apply in corny fiction; in real world high schools, popularity/athletic prowess trumps all.

You seem to be saying you'd be OK with getting fired because your co-workers were screwing up badly.  If it happened, it would be interesting to see how you reacted.

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@akattack @tornicade73 Golf in high school is a team sport.  fyi.  Sorry, to SUSPEND someone for not doing anything wrong, is wrong.  Did your high school football team all hang out together all the time?  No, it didn't.  There were cliques, just like in every aspect of life.  There may have been some "team building" activities, but those were the exception, not the rule.  

There's a difference between "mailing it in" on the field and off it.  Why should the 10 suffer for the wrong doing of the one?  Especially since it had nothing to do with team?  Should the entire New England Patriots suffer the same punishment for the off field actions of one team mate?

akattack
akattack

@MidwestGolfFanThat doesn't just apply on the field, either. Look... if your teammates are messing around not getting to class or bullying someone, they're going to wind up academically inadmissible or suspended. So then where are you? If you're the quarterback and a couple members of the starting unit of your line are wiped out for the year -- just for messing around? You are screwed. You may wind up getting injured because they weren't doing what they were supposed to. So who's responsibility is it to make sure that everyone has their ducks in a row? It's EVERYONE'S. That's how a team works.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@akattack @MidwestGolfFan @mnhun  

Since when is standing up to injustice, "spineless?"

Tell you what...next time a team/group at work screws up, offer to resign along with them.  Just to show what a moral paragon you are.


ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@akattack @MidwestGolfFan @mnhun - Yes, you are.  To accept punishment for doing nothing wrong is about as spineless as you can get.  Teach them to stand up for themselves.  

Were you accountable for every action of every team mate on your high school teams? According to you,  you must have been.  And since there were jerks on your team, and you did nothing to change their behavior, that makes you a.......?

ErikBaran
ErikBaran

@baltzma01 @MidwestGolfFan

1.  This is high school football, not the "real" world.  These kids have three years to play for their school, and for the coach to take away 1/3 of that time, and the final year for the seniors, is petty and simple minded.  

2.  Anyone could see they innocent, which was probably the majority, were going to punished to the same extent as the guilty.  If the coach couldn't see the consequences of his actions, maybe he shouldn't be in charge of these kids.

3.  So to save his own but t he throws the innocent under the bus with the guilty?  He definitely shouldn't be in charge of kids.

4.  Forcing someone to do something is wrong.  It's punishment when they have to give up their time because of the actions of the guilty.  So should we force you to give up your vices because they're bad for you?

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@baltzma01 @MidwestGolfFan 

1.  It seems to me that your analogy, not mine, is the one that falls short.  I see no reason to drop mine.  And we are talking about the adult world, because the coach has created a public firestorm, and dragged the innocent kids into it.

2-3.  You're right; life is NOT fair.  Bad enough we have to live with that fact due to things beyond our control, but if someone can control a situation, it's an unacceptable response.  So it's OK to forcing the innocent to do the same extra drudgework as the guilty.  That's not punishment?  I wonder if those kids think that.

4.  Why do the good kids need a "character improvement" exercise, when it's the bad kids who initiated the whole mess?  Lump them together that way, and the lesson is, "Behave or screw up, you get treated the same."  A terrible thing.

In this controversy about PERSONAL responsibility and honor (that much-overused word so beloved by charlatans), you punish...the collective.  Makes zero sense.

As for my analogies, I AM a fan.  They're useful because they often create a new perspective that hits home.  You are free to disagree with the substance, but I think I'll keep using them.

baltzma01
baltzma01

@MidwestGolfFan @baltzma01 

1.  Agreed. There is a lot of fault you can find when using workers in a company to illustrate kids in school. Let's just drop this comparison altogether.

2-3. I am old school and believe "life is not fair." I don't view it as punishing the innocent.

4. Maybe punishment is a harsh word to use. Let's call it a character improvement team exercise. 

Possibly, if everyone in the car was responsible for not stopping the driver acting like a maniac (not keeping him from drinking and driving, not telling him to slow down). FYI not a big fan of comparing scenarios. 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@baltzma01 @MidwestGolfFan 

You're avoiding the point.

1.  You're talking about the equivalent of disbanding the team, coaches and all.  Company-killing decisions rest with management.  In this case, management is the coaches.  Hmm.

2-3. You seem to be saying it's OK to punish the innocent to keep the bad guys from making trouble, and explaining it to the good guys as just a "byproduct" of life.  A contradiction to your saying you sometimes have to make a decisions and stick with them.  Provided, I guess, you don't rile up the bad guys too much.

4. Community service, when tied to some kind of restitution for behavior, IS a punishment.  The good kids are being lumped with the bad kids, and being told "it's for your own good."  Really?  What right does anyone have to do that?  It's like sentencing everyone in a car to 1,000 hours of community service because the driver acted like a maniac.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@2Rugger @MidwestGolfFan @00dave 

"Honor" has been warped by charlatan coaches (excuse me, Coaches) into something to scream about in team meetings and locker rooms.  

Punishing people who have done nothing wrong is unjust.  Saying it's not really a punishment is dishonest, since it only happened because someone misbehaved.  Telling them to "suck it up" (another coach-cliche) "for the team" is dishonorable: punishing the collective for individual misconduct.

It was probably the stars who were out of control, and everyone got punished so the stars wouldn't lose face.  No coach would turn his team inside-out for a bunch of bench-warmers whom he could cut quietly, with no fuss.

As for the idealistic stuff at the end of your post, I don't buy it.  High school bad boys respect no one.  They're probably laughing themselves silly that everyone got in trouble for their screw-ups.