‘Sitting on a Time Bomb’: WNC Football Coaches Prepare to Stop Hazing as Best They Can

You are currently viewing ‘Sitting on a Time Bomb’: WNC Football Coaches Prepare to Stop Hazing as Best They Can
Asheville Citizen Times

Photo by Angela Wilhelm

September 13. 2022

The February arrest of three North Buncombe High School football players connected to a locker room hazing incident provided coaches across Western North Carolina the chance to reiterate their anti-hazing policies with their teams, reminding the teenagers in their care the potentially severe consequences hazing can carry.

All charges against the lone adult in the case were dropped last month, after the 19-year-old former running back on the team “provided a video statement for use by Buncombe County School Administration” to help prevent hazing within athletic departments.

But as the North Buncombe case showed, preventing hazing requires more than just having a policy. While the exact strategies vary, coaches say they all rely on levels of trust and camaraderie that go beyond the locker room.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had an issue with that. But it doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” Mountain Heritage coach Joey Robinson said. “[We] coaches are sitting on a time bomb all the time, unless you take a chair and set it in the locker room all the time.”

Many current coaches played high school or college football at a time when organizations’ attitudes toward hazing weren’t set in stone, or even guaranteed to be negative.

But any ambiguity around school, district or team policies was removed long ago.

“It’s unacceptable, 100 percent,” Roberson coach J.D. Dinwiddie said. “Those days are long gone.”

Still, actually preventing hazing is a complex task.

Dinwiddie said combining the varsity and junior varsity teams in one weight training class has helped avoid any schisms within his program. McDowell coach Darrell Brewer said keeping the two groups in separate locker rooms can be more harmonious for everybody involved. Madison coach Jamie Extine keeps a senior-only locker room, but a couple of seniors rotate into the underclassmen locker room weekly to act as monitors.

“I think [hazing is] one of those things that pops up randomly,” Extine said. “You just have to inform your kids of, ‘Would you want to be treated like that?’ And 100 percent of them will say no.”

Reynolds coach Shane Laws, though, knows his players won’t always be forthcoming about potential problems.

Limiting the amount of time players have together without a coach nearby goes a long way, but some moments without supervision are unavoidable. Finding out about any misbehavior relies on communication and trust.

“All you can do is try to have a relationship where, if something crazy’s going on, they tell you,” Laws said. “[For parents], if your child comes home and something doesn’t sound right, make sure we know about it. … We want them to reach out and talk to us.”

David Hines was hired at North Buncombe in January, only having been at the school for a few weeks at the time of the arrests, which were for incidents that occurred last fall.

Finding out about events that happened before he arrived didn’t change his strategy but re-emphasized the importance of the approach he’d already planned to bring to the job.

“My No. 1 goal, outside of wanting to win ballgames, is I want to help turn these young men into productive members of society,” Hines said. “I want them to be good dads, good husbands, strong workers, good citizens.”

A focus on those big-picture goals is common among football coaches, and the work toward those missions doesn’t necessarily happen between the white lines. As difficult as it is for coaches to control the 11 players on the field, ensuring all of the kids in the program are making good choices is even more of a challenge.

But with the right attitude, attentiveness and messaging, avoiding hazing is possible.

“Whether it was football, locker rooms, school, it doesn’t matter, there’s an expectation of how they act,” Hines said. “Expectations are there for a reason, and I feel that the kids have risen to my expectations.”

Let Us Help. Contact Us Today.