Changing the culture of violence in sport

July 4, 2011

accident, Health & Safety

I wrote last week of the lacrosse head stomping incident. A colleague of mine at Thompson Rivers University, Peter Soberlak – Chair of the Physical Education Department – penned an erudite piece in the local paper (click here for it), the highlights of which are worth repeating and are noted below:

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We must also focus our attention on the sports that condone and promote a high level of violence and encourage these organizations to accept partial responsibility and be accountable, rather than deny any involvement, and in this case, single out a 15-year-old boy who obviously made a very poor decision.

When violence and intimidation are built into the culture of certain sports and are used both tactically and strategically, they become part of the psyche of the athletes involved. How can we expect 15-year-olds who are often dealing with raging hormones, peer pressure, coach pressure, and parental pressure to always make the right decisions in these emotionally charged situations that are allowed to escalate because of the culture of the sport itself and the rules that are in place?

There are far too many variables that lead to situations and incidents like this in youth sport and it’s about time that we re-examine the structure and culture of violence within certain sports, particularly at the youth level.

I sincerely hope that the sport of lacrosse and its governing bodies will take this opportunity to stand up, acknowledge its role in this incident, and show some leadership in promoting positive social change in the culture of youth sport.

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