Lessons to be learned from hockey scan­dal Clear­ing the haze

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

OUR very own high-pro­file scan­dal! Res­ig­na­tions, sus­pen­sion, in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fi­nan­cial penal­ties, lost rep­u­ta­tion and lost rev­enue — all within one week. What a dif­fi­cult les­son for the youth sports world, its coaches and its play­ers. What a dis­ap­point­ment for par­ents who en­trusted their young lads to lo­cal com­mu­nity lead­ers.

How­ever, this un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing the Neep­awa Na­tives ju­nior hockey league team pro­vides some lessons for all of us.

While this out­ra­geous be­hav­iour known as haz­ing may have stunned many read­ers, it has his­tor­i­cally been a com­mon prac­tice with high schools, re­spectable univer­sity fra­ter­ni­ties, sports groups, the mil­i­tary and some ser­vice groups.

Let’s face it, most or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clude a rite of pas­sage or ini­ti­a­tion process for their new mem­bers. This process might be as sim­ple as re­quir­ing a per­sonal nom­i­na­tion or re­fer­ral, re­peat­ing an oath of al­le­giance, or mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion re­gard­ing the ben­e­fits of be­ing a mem­ber. Haz­ing, how­ever, goes far be­yond this re­quire­ment.

Haz­ing is specif­i­cally de­signed to hu­mil­i­ate the newby and/or to re­in­force their en­try-level sta­tus ver­sus es­tab­lished mem­bers. Ac­tiv­i­ties range from mild fun ac­tiv­i­ties such as dress­ing up, run­ning the so­called gaunt­let or be­ing re­quired to do pushups. Still, other ac­tiv­i­ties are de­signed to be men­tally de­grad­ing, abu­sive, dan­ger­ous and/or per­haps vi­o­lent. Many in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude nu­dity or sex­u­ally ori­ented ac­tiv­i­ties.

Haz­ing has not been lim­ited to high schools, sports or fra­ter­ni­ties; it has also reared its ugly head in the work­place. Typ­i­cally re­ferred to as prac­ti­cal jokes, these ac­tiv­i­ties have ranged from harm­less to se­vere mis­treat­ment such as be­ing tied up with duct tape and spanked un­til bruis­ing oc­curs.

To­day, the cul­ture of our work­places does not tol­er­ate haz­ing. Haz­ing is viewed as bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour and is con­sid­ered un­ac­cept­able. As a re­sult, most or­ga­ni­za­tions have poli­cies against ha­rass­ment of any kind, whether it be ver­bal, phys­i­cal and bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour through the In­ter­net. Lead­ing-edge or­ga­ni­za­tions also take great care to train their em­ploy­ees on the value of a team­work cul­ture that in­cludes trust, re­spect and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Power, con­trol, and fear­based man­age­ment styles no longer work and are no longer ac­cept­able.

So, if the work­place can cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments where peo­ple are com­fort­able and feel safe with­out these hor­ren­dous haz­ing prac­tices; then, so too can sports bod­ies. Yet, be­sides im­ple­ment­ing a ha­rass­ment and haz­ing pol­icy, what additional strate­gies can put an end to haz­ing? In my view, it starts with the lead­ers. Here are some strate­gies to con­sider:

Con­firm the larger or­ga­ni­za­tional val­ues — The larger the or­ga­ni­za­tion, the more ef­fort needs to be put forth to­ward de­vel­op­ing a cul­ture. This means en­sur­ing that ev­ery­one un­der­stands and per­son­ally lives by the val­ues of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. This is ac­com­plished through lead­er­ship meet­ings, pub­li­ca­tions, lo­gos, mis­sions, man­dates and vi­sion state­ments. Those who can­not ac­cept the val­ues should be in­vited to leave the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Pro­vide lead­er­ship train­ing — Com­mu­nity lead­ers have mul­ti­ple roles in­clud­ing in­struc­tor, mo­ti­va­tor and sub­sti­tute par­ent. This means their own learn­ing must go be­yond sim­ply ac­quir­ing a sport spe­cific knowl­edge. They must be trained in gen­eral lead­er­ship and team-build­ing and need to meet an­nu­ally to de­brief, dis­cuss is­sues and chal­lenges and share best prac­tices.

Ap­ply pos­i­tive team-build­ing ex­er­cises — Lead­ers need to cre­ate and im­ple­ment sea­son-long team-build­ing ex­er­cises that in­volve mul­ti­ple el­e­ments in­clud­ing in­tel­lec­tual, emo­tional, prob­lem solv­ing, phys­i­cal stamina, team co-op­er­a­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This helps to build team strength, de­velop trust be­tween mem­bers, cre­ate team chem­istry and re­spect for each par­tic­i­pant.

Build a team vi­sion — Work with your sports team to iden­tify your team val­ues and link them to your or­ga­ni­za­tional val­ues. Brain­storm and de­velop a team vi­sion, who are you? What do you do? How do you want play­ers to be­have? In­stil pride in the group through vi­sion rather than through fear.

In­cor­po­rate a men­tor/buddy sys­tem — New team mem­bers will take some time to feel part of the team. As­sign re­spon­si­ble mem­bers to teach the new mem­ber the val­ues and ethics of the team. Use this as a lead­er­ship build­ing tool for mem­bers.

Lend­ing a hand to your com­mu­nity — Part of teach­ing youth about teams and lead­er­ship is to also help them see the value of giv­ing back to their com­mu­nity and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. Find a vol­un­teer ac­tiv­ity where ev­ery­one can par­tic­i­pate. De­brief their val­ued learn­ing and ap­ply it back to the team dy­nam­ics you are de­vel­op­ing.

Din­ner and a movie — Movies are great teach­ing tools. Take the team to a movie or buy a pizza and rent a spe­cific movie that ex­hibits a set of valu­able lessons. De­brief on the movie and re­lay it back to your team goals. En­gage the team mem­bers

Pro­vide team­work train­ing — Lead­ers are those re­spon­si­ble to change the cul­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion and to do so, they need to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent phases of team de­vel­op­ment. They also need to be skilled at in­ter­ven­ing at each level of team-build­ing to en­sure ev­ery­one is work­ing to the best of their abil­ity and have the sup­port needed to suc­ceed.

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