The allegations are horrifying and criminal. Sayreville’s cancellation of its 2014 season has dominated the headlines in high school football in New Jersey. There’s no need for me to get on a soapbox and state the obvious – that there’s no place in any level of sports for that kind of behavior.
Fortunately, I have seen the other end of the spectrum when it comes to bullying. It was sweltering late morning in August and I was paying a visit to a high school football practice to do a preview. At the end of practice, this team ran its round of sprints to work on conditioning to close out the session. It is hard work, but necessary. As the players ran through their paces and got more and more exhausted, there was one younger player on the offensive line who was falling off the pace. Once every player completed the final run, this one player was all alone – he probably felt embarrassed and beaten. The perfect target for immature kids to belittle and taunt. Except at this practice, something else happened. About half the team ran across the field to do one more lap and help this player get to the finish line. The rest of the team, instructed by coaches to stay, clapped loudly on the sidelines in encouragement.
While I happened to capture this moment on camera, I can honestly say off the top of my head I saw three other instances where players did the same thing to help the slowest guy on the team get through conditioning. I spent the past week reading about plenty of negatives when it comes to New Jersey high school football. Just know there are kids all around the Jersey Shore who are clapping and raising people up instead of tearing them down.