A high school football coach from the Utah town of Roosevelt has made headlines after suspending the entire football team – all 41 members – after they were found to be involved in a cyberbullying incident.
News of Coach Matt Labrum’s decision has spread across Facebook, with the majority of users taking the time to offer him support for the unusual decision. Labrum told local media that the strict measure was not an option he chose lightly, but he’s convinced it was the right decision to teach his players an important life lesson.
“We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going,” said Labrum, “We felt like we needed to make a stand.” Labrum’s move has certainly had an impact on the young men on the team, who were described as being involved in the bullying incident, as well as skipping class.
One parent who spoke to the media had this to say, describing when Labrum told the team that they would all be suspended: “They were in the locker room for a really long time. They came out, and there were tears. Those boys were wrecked. My son got in the car really upset and said: ‘First of all, there is no football team. It’s been disbanded.’”
The primary incident that spurred Labrum to suspend the team was a serious case of cyberbullying, which involved a number of members from the football team and an unnamed student who attends the same school. While the identity of the team members who participated in the bullying could not be established, it was clear that a number of players had been involved.
Speaking to journalists, Labrum offered more rationale for his decision: “I think football molds character. We want to help our parents raise their sons. We want to be a positive influence. We want to be an asset.”
Instead of training for an upcoming football match, Labrum directed the team to participate in community service. A number of players spent time at a local retirement home and volunteered for several hours over the weekend, where they received a glowing endorsement from staff and residents.
“The younger generation has, unfairly, a reputation for not showing respect to their elders, and for being selfish,” said one elderly resident. “These young men challenge that stereotype. They have obviously been raised well and know a thing or two about respect.”
The parents of the team members, while admitting they initially felt the punishment was heavy-handed, have come to realize that the coach’s decision was a good one. “I do support it,” one mother told journalists. “These boys are not going to be hurt by this. It’s a good life lesson. It’s not a punishment; I see it as an opportunity to do some good in the community.”
The players themselves also admitted that the suspension was a good way to make them reconsider their behavior and think about how they can be better people. “This has helped me realize the impact of bullying,” said one student. “I have a lot of respect for [Coach Labrum] and he definitely made us realize we need to be accountable for our actions.”
Perhaps the most touching outcome from the suspension was when a group of players wrote an apology card to the student who had been bullied, and presented it to him. “We wanted to really make sure he knew we were sorry for what we did,” said one of the players. “We’ve all learnt our lesson, and we won’t be making the same mistakes again.”