Lessons to be learned from hockey scandal Clearing the haze
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.