Friday, September 27, 2013
The Way It Was
Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah is much like any American school. It boasts a tough curriculum. It prides itself on school spirit. It hopes to graduate young people with a good enough education to land them jobs in today’s tough economy, or better still, move on to higher education in furtherance of better futures. Union even has a football team, but that is where the similarity ends. The academic institution also hired a football coach, Matt Labrum, who deserves a higher level of respect than most folks in the American educational system.
Recently, Labrum discovered that some of his 80-member team participated in unacceptable off-the-field behavior. His players cut classes, disrespected teachers, and bullied other students. He would have none of it, so he took drastic action. He suspended the entire team, collected their jerseys and equipment, and announced that each team player would have to re-earn his spot on the team - or pack it in.
Labrum kept his word. He considered playing sports a privilege in high school, and he took it away for poor player character. Amidst the tears of the tough team members, Labrum dismantled the entire team and sent them home, while he and his staff focused on “things more important than winning a football game.”
The coach and school officials had been unable to pinpoint exactly which players were involved in the bullying, but Labrum refused to field a team saying, "we don’t want that represented in our program." He handed his players a letter entitled, "Union Football Character," and set forth the requirements for a possible return to the football program. Among the hurdles for the boys to leap was a written report of their actions off the field, mandatory study hall, a class on character development, and community service.
I am also thoroughly impressed with the school principal at Union High and the parents of the students involved. The coach was fully supported, and all but 10 players have thus far earned back their jerseys. I think they earned much more than a spot on the team. They cemented their place in an American society that once was and could be again.
. . .