Don Mahler: Time To Punt Skits, Hanover

Friday, October 04, 2013
So what do we know about the freshman skits involving members of the Hanover High football team?

■ We know it wasn’t hazing, but it was in bad taste;

■ We know that the incident has been removed from the criminal ledger and relegated to where it belongs, as a school matter;

■ We know these type of skits have been part of the football program for a number of years;

■ We know that other Marauder sports teams have also been involved in similar activities;

■ We know that Hanover is not the only school whose teams are involved in these types of shenanigans;

■ We know the school is embarrassed, we know that the parents are upset, we know the players are contrite.

But we know something else. We know it’s time to stop.

The way I see the landscape, it’s now up to the football team to take the lead in Hanover and follow the old mantra: Just Say No!

That’s right, no more. The freshman skits — as we know them — are over. A thing of the past. No more.

You’ve had your fun; you’ve taken your punishment. Now is the time to grow up, stand up, man up and move on. Guys, it’s time to take the lead in the school and declare an end to the practice.

Granted, the old favorites die hard, but they have outlived their attraction. The days of the trash bags are over, the days of the taunting, negative cheers are over, the days of the orange hunting caps are over. It’s a new dawn, and you soon-to-be adults are at the head of the class.

Who else is going to keep order? The coaches can’t be with the team 24/7 — especially during preseason/summer practice. It’s hard enough for working parents to follow every child’s step during the day, to say nothing of being expected to be on duty for an afternoon gathering. So it’s up to you to lead by example and call an end, once and for all, to this behavior.

Not to pick on the seniors, but you should be the ones bearing the leadership load. You are the ones teammates and schoolmates look up to. Let the underclassmen know this type of activity is not acceptable. Put that line in the sand.

Because let’s be honest: you guys caught a break. The next group might not be so lucky. Had this activity taken place in Hanover instead of Norwich, the stakes might have been much higher — charging student-athletes with a misdemeanor, no doubt a court battle and a possible detrimental effect on college applications or job prospects or military service.

When you read it out loud, you get the idea just how serious the consequences could have been.

Understand, I’m not picking on football. The same warning and plea goes out to any other program that uses forms of degradation — or some untoward activity — to inspire team bonding. It’s just that football — particularly in high school — has always been the premier sports program. So with that adoration comes a sense of responsibility.

Show those freshmen what it really means to be a teammate. Show the rest of the school what it really means to be a leader. And show the adults what it means to be a man.

It was a tribute to coach Mike Ivanoski that his team came together to find a higher ground. The players are planning a number of activities to help restore confidence in the program and camaraderie within the group.

A video on how to be a good teammate; how to treat each other respectfully, what are appropriate things to do and say and to respect the community are all topics being discussed. Also, there is a plan is to assign two upperclassmen to each ninth-grader — of which there are eight on the team — to act as mentors. Another step is to set up a clinic of sorts for youth football players and explain what the program is all about; how to talk respectfully, how to make a commitment and what is appropriate action.

Like scoring a touchdown in the final seconds, or making the key tackle to save the game, it’s got to feel good to be making the right play.

Dedicate yourselves to a new beginning, where someday you can look back with pride over how you changed the culture and attitude of your team and your school.

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.