Recent rugby scandal raises bigger questions about Dalhousie athletics
Hazing should not be dismissed as mere jocularity, or a prank gone awry. It is bullying.
Plain and simple.
Whether it’s the major leagues or house leagues, sports do a lot of good in society. However, it is naïve to say that it doesn’t have blemishes.
Cheating, drug use and corruption have done a lot to mar the reputation of professional and youth sports.
Hazing is one glaring example of organized sports gone wrong. It is a form of abuse and should be treated as such.
Dalhousie is back in the spotlight for hazing. The men’s rugby club was suspended less than two years after a scandal ended the women’s hockey team’s season.
The Canadian Press reported that the rugby club is being investigated under the university’s hazing policy. This stand-alone policy has been in place since June.
The hockey incident should have clued people in. To have it occur less than two years later is embarrassing and shameful.
Having a special policy for hazing is like treating a concussion with a Band-Aid.
It fails to address the issue properly while pretending to cure it.
The ideal of sport is that it is a true meritocracy. Every minute of ice time, every plate appearance and every down on the field is earned through hours of hard work and dedication.
In four years of working at a sports camp, I taught my campers that patience, effort and sportsmanship are the keys to success in any game. Being an inclusive teammate and a respectful opponent should be valued above winning.
The concept of hazing is antithetical to the very principles of sports. It has no bearing on whether someone can be successful during a game. It takes advantage of new players and rookies who desperately want to fit in and be accepted as a part of the team.
No player should be subjected to humiliation disguised as ‘team building.’ And yet, hazing has once again reared its ugly head at Dal.
When people brush off hazing as not a big deal since no one was hurt, it furthers the issue by casting a blind eye on those suffering in silence. If even one person is made to feel uncomfortable, it is bullying. Period.
The obvious guilt falls on those members of the team who subject others to the hazing itself. However, veterans who watch but don’t participate are equally guilty, if not more so. They knew it was wrong and said nothing, allowing for this ugly rite of passage to continue.
There are frequent public service announcements across all media against bullying and peer pressure. Hazing should be included under this umbrella as it encompasses both. A player won’t want to be ostracized from his or her teammates, and will therefore take part in something that is uncomfortable and unpleasant.
If this incident does not prompt and outcry from student-athletes, it should incite outrage from parents of Dal athletes. They support their children’s choice to play at a varsity or club level. They put their trust in the coaching staff and athletic department to protect them. Dalhousie has failed them.
The athletic department has some serious questions to answer. Even though they have the new policy, the fact that it is in use so soon after the hockey scandal is indicative of a greater issue.
Adding a new policy does not go far enough. There needs to be a change in the culture of sports at Dalhousie. The athletic department also needs to change how they supervise their teams at all levels and what they regard as permissible.
I have learned that perfection is a moving target and that true gains come from aiming for better. It is something I have passed on to every athlete I have coached at the elementary and high school levels.
Dalhousie’s athletic department isn’t going to change overnight. However, like learning a new sport or skill, persistence and commitment will lead to improvement in changing the athletic culture on campus.
Benjamin Blum is the former Sports editor at the Gazette and has worked in youth sports in Toronto and abroad over the past four years.
A lifelong sports fan, Benjamin Blum entered the world of journalism after suffering a concussion playing rugby for the University of King’s College. From that moment, his twin passions for writing and sports motivated the Thornhill, Ont. native to give this journalism thing a try. Having been an athlete, coach and fan for many years, Ben brings his diverse knowledge of sports along with a witty sense of humour to the sports section. Ben was Sports Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146.