High School Football Coach Suspends Entire Team to Teach Lesson in Character
A high school football coach in Utah has suspended 80 players because of off-field behavior in hopes of turning the situation into a character building experience.
Coach Matt Labrum of Union High School in Utah asked his players to turn in their jerseys after a game last Friday night. He told the team he was concerned about some of the players’ actions and behavior off the field, including cyber bullying, cutting classes and performing poorly in class.
Labrum called for a meeting the next day at 7 a.m. where students would be told how they might earn an opportunity to once again be part of the team. At the meeting, Labrum distributed a letter titled “Union Football Character” that explained what players would have to do in order to earn their jerseys back. The boys were asked to perform community service, attend study hall and participate in a class on character development while displaying respect for teachers and fellow students. Each boy was also asked to perform a service for his family and write a report about it.
The letter also stipulated that players must be on time for their classes and show improvements in their marks if they wished to play.
Bullying was also addressed after guidance counselors informed Labrum of a student who is not on the team complaining of anonymous cyber bullying believed to have been carried out by some players. Labrum personally met with the bullied student on Monday and offered an apology.
“We were pretty open with (the players) about what we’d heard. We don’t want that represented in our program,” Labrum told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News. “Whoever it is (doing the bullying), we want to help get them back on the right path.”
“I think football molds character,” he said. “We want to help our parents raise their sons. We want to be a positive influence. We want to be an asset.”
Labrum has received support from school officials and parents. Even members of the team seem eager to prove themselves, including senior running back Gavin Nielsen.
“I wasn’t holding people accountable on the field and off the field”, he said. “As a leader, on the field and off, I have to hold people accountable.”
Students have been hard at work earning their jerseys back - pulling weeds, cleaning school windows and hallways and spending time with residents at two local long-term care facilities.