November 11, 2013

Football programs working to rid Maine of bullying

Coaches and players support anti-hazing rules, saying they help foster team harmony.

By Mike Lowe
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Jake Knop, a freshman player at Portland High, had reservations about hazing, but quickly learned that such behavior isn’t tolerated.

Gabe Souza

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Jim Hartman, head coach of Portland's football team, looks on from the sidelines during his team's Eastern Class A football semifinal game vs. Windham at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland Friday, November 8, 2013.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

“If you want to be successful,’’ said Kezal, “everyone has got to feel invited.’’

“It’s all about being a good teammate,’’ said Dave Caputi, the head football coach at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. “Are you holding up your end of the bargain?’’

Caputi said the Bowdoin coaching staff and captains monitor not only what’s happening on the field, but also the language that is used in the locker room. “If you don’t monitor the language, it’s often reflective of the behavior,’’ he said. That means no racial slurs, no sexual references, no threats. He also expects his players to represent the values of the community they are in.

Caputi called the Miami situation “a big deal on many levels. Bullying is a big deal from elementary school to junior high to high school.’’

Captains play a huge role in monitoring the locker rooms. “They are the go-between for us and the locker room,’’ said Thornton’s Kezal.

Cody Lynn, a Thornton Academy senior end, said the captains try to handle any incident before it gets to the coach. “We all look out for one another and make sure we’ve got each other’s backs,’’ he said.

Portland’s Hartman has great trust in his captains’ ability to watch over the locker room. “When those kids speak, the other kids listen,’’ he said. “They have created a family atmosphere in our locker room and the kids take care of each other.’’

Justin Zukowski, a Portland senior captain, added: “Anytime anything goes on, action has to be taken. But there’s not much that goes on here, we’re all pretty good friends and none of that has ever happened.’’

Marcus Wasilewski, the University of Maine quarterback, said the violent and emotional nature of football can lead to confrontations between teammates. But you can’t let them escalate.

“There’s going to be confrontations,’’ he said. “There may be an argument between two guys. But if someone starts to go too far, someone will step in.

“The last thing you need during the season is a distraction like that. One of the reasons we are having so much success this year is that everyone cares about everyone else; we’re friends with everyone.’’

Lebowitz, of the Center for Sport in Society, said the Miami situation opened eyes for a couple of reasons. First, it happened in the NFL. Second, it involved social media. Incognito allegedly sent racist and threatening text messages and voice messages to Martin.

“When we hear about bullying at the middle school or high school level, we’re often all too quick to dismiss it as something we all went through as kids and that kids should just toughen up and get through it,’’ he said. “But what we have here, in a visceral nature, is much more intense than what it used to be, with the advent of the Internet, the advent of voice mail, the advent of text messaging.

“Being bullied can be a 24-hour event now. It’s not just something that happens at recess and you can go home.’’

Cosgrove isn’t surprised this happened in the NFL. “Not at all, based on some of the things our players (who went on to the NFL) indicated,’’ he said. “They had some tough first years. In our conversations, it was obvious some of the guys got into great situations, others not so great.’’

Regardless, he said, what happened in Miami went beyond the typical rookie hazing, where first-year players are sometimes required to carry equipment or pay for lavish dinners.

“I’m more worried about the authoritative things, the demeaning things, that are done,’’ he said. “They have no place in our game.’’

Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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