A high school football coach in Utah has suspended his entire team after the school's guidance counselor alerted him to an online bullying incident.
Head Coach Matt Labrum at Utah's Union High School believed his program was going in the wrong direction as players cyberbullied a classmate on Ask.fm. Because the site allows users to remain anonymous, Labrum couldn't be sure which players were responsible. That, combined with a perceived lack of discipline in classes and other arenas away from football, prompted Labrum to suspend all of his players.
“We said, ‘We’ve got to make a change,’” said Labrum, who met with the student who was bullied on Monday to offer an apology. “We were pretty open with (the players) about what we’d heard. We don’t want that represented in our program. … Whoever it is (doing the bullying), we want to help get them back on the right path.”
But there were other issues that concerned the coaches, including failing and skipping classes and showing disrespect to teachers.
“It had gotten to a new level,” said Labrum. “We felt like we weren’t respecting the teachers, what they were trying to do inside the school, other people’s time. Overall, our program wasn’t going where we wanted it to go. We weren’t reaching the young men like we wanted to reach them.”
Instead of just suspending them, though, Labrum outlined a community outreach program that would allow the student-athletes to earn their jerseys back in time for Friday's game.
They were to participate in community service initiative en lieu of practice on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, the students were to participate in a two-hour study hall and memorize and recite a quote to a member of the coaching staff.
"Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it, piece-by-piece—by thought, by choice, courage, and determination."