When you've got a big game coming up against a rival team from the other side of the city (or state), the result is usually a no-holds-barred brawl between not only the school teams, but the students, fans, and parents. The easiest way to get under the skin of the opposition is the most common "trash talk." This practice has been around in many forms all over the world of sports, most famously seen before boxing events and wrestling matches. In mainstream professional sports, there usually isn't much of a sign of it due to excessive media exposure and public image. However, you know it's there in a mutual sense. In the case of high school sports, there is often a plethora of these incidences involving trash talking. It can get a bit extreme, almost to the point of the brink of physical violence.
To prevent any more of these scenes, the state of New Jersey announced a policy fitting high school sports teams under the anti-bullying campaign in effect throughout the schools in the Garden State. If any student athletes discriminate another athlete based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, the school can face penalization and investigation through the Civil Rights Division.
Yes, they mean business.
This is what I don't understand: shouldn't the student-athletes have enough smarts to not do that to begin with? What is this, 1966? If the student-athlete is calling out other players on another squad because some of them are another ethnicity, shouldn't that already be handled by the coaching staff or even the teen's parents? I'm opening up another can of worms with that, so I digress.
The main reason for this, as I mentioned above, is to promote the anti-bullying movement being promoted in high schools around the region. The bullying/suicide issue is becoming quite the hot topic since the inception of social media among other technology, and state and federal governments are looking to prevent it from bleeding onto sports fields. Back in December, I argued (rather, complained) as to why issues like race and social status are still an issue even today, when events like the Civil Rights Movement occurred 50 years ago. And these were adults that were facing the problem. If teens can't handle diversity at this stage where we have already faced stigmas against race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, there might be a problem with their source of opinion. In the world of sports, athletes will have to face other athletes of different colors, beliefs, and social class. High school and even pee-wee sports are the practice grounds for tolerance and love for another even though they play for the other team. There's nothing wrong with rivalry, but name-calling and slurs are learned; kids don't just come up with it or decide to start doing it. If they're exposed to it somehow, it has to somehow be eliminated once they hit the field.
While this new policy is promoting sportsmanship and self-control among teammates, the anti-bullying movement is getting a bit too over-the-top. If everyone was nice to each other with no sign of abrasiveness, we would be all mushy and sugary and people wouldn't know how to vocally defend themselves and turn negatives into positives. Although bullying is a massive problem on social media outlets, the sports field is another story. High school student athletes may not completely understand the whole concept of respected competition yet, but they will, and this is where they have to learn on their own accord. If the members of a team respect each other and don't bully the other, I'm pretty sure it will be reflected toward the other team. You're already killing the opposition with your kindness to not kill them, so to speak. After all, it's an age-old fact that actions speak louder than words.
I'm not entirely against the whole policy that will be implemented in the fall, but it should also be implied that you really shouldn't be using certain kinds of phraseology to intimidate the opposition to begin with. If you can't say anything nice about their origins, you shouldn't say anything at all. I'm pretty sure "you guys stink and we're going to pummel you" is enough. Playful bantering never hurt anyone--don't take that away completely. TEACH the athletes to have compassion and respect; you don't have to create a LAW to enforce it. We're getting a little trigger-happy, don't you think?
You can read the article for the idea of this post here.