The Growing Problem of Hazing and What Schools Can Do About It

December 14 2015


  • Amy Kristine Williams, Guest Blogger
    Amy Kristine Williams
    Guest Blogger

Hazing is a serious problem among today’s young athletes - especially among kids who believe it’s the only way they’ll get to fit in.

Make no mistake - that is why so many young people are willing to tolerate it. In a recent discussion on the issue, Dr. Susan Lipkins - author, psychologist, and hazing expert - noted that hazing is part of a culture where people are willing to accept humiliation in order to succeed and be accepted.

This issue goes deeper than sports alone, though. From an early age, children are pressured to succeed, and many of them are willing to cheat to get good grades in school. By the time kids reach high school, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll have cheated at least once - in many cases, because that’s the only way they think they can succeed.

Consider this scenario: An athlete arrives in high school focused on the sport they love. However, they’re not very good at studying, and the school has a grade-point requirement for them to make the team. Realizing that they can only play if their grades are high, they start cheating - it’s wrong, but it gets them what they want. Then the sports team comes around and says they need to be “initiated” into the team - they’ve already done something wrong, and if they back out now, all of that wrongdoing was wasted… so they agree to the initiation, and the hazing begins.

This isn’t happening with just a few schools, either - according to a report from ABC News, 48% of all students who join groups in High School are subject to hazing, and sports teams are high on the list of groups likely to conduct it. There’s a very good chance that if your school has two or more sports teams, at least one of them is conducting hazing each year.

What Does Hazing Look Like In High School?

Hazing can take many different forms, but all of them are humiliating and most are potentially dangerous. The most common forms of hazing include:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Getting Tattoos or Piercings
  • Shaving Heads
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Forced Consumption of Food and/or Drink
  • Sexual Assault

That last one in particular is on the rise in high schools - and some experts believe that the quoted numbers drastically underestimate how widespread this issue really is.

What School Staff and Parents Can Do About the Hazing Problem

Hazing in sports is not easy to stop - one look at the numbers is all we need to prove that. However, there are ways to reduce its prevalence, and it requires support from educators throughout a child’s time in school.

One part that must be addressed is the emphasis sports have on masculinity - in many cases, while people don’t want to be hazed, they do want to prove they’re man enough (or, more rarely, woman enough in female sports) to be part of the team. Schools can help this by changing how kids think of masculinity, and encouraging them to believe that those who can say “No” to hazing and do what’s right are the real men.

Schools can work together with parents to monitor the communications of athletes and check on their location - in many cases, the cycle of hazing can only be broken if kids are caught and disrupted, so knowing when it’s about to occur is crucial. Giving consent to be monitored can even be a prerequisite for joining the team - the more seriously a school takes its attempts to stop hazing, the more effective they’ll be.

Community Matters offers a hazing-prevention workshop for athletic directors, coaches and team captains. For more information call Erica Vogel, Director of Community Engagement at 707-823-6159 x103 or email

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. Folllow her on Twitter at @AmyKWilliams1

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