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Turning Over New Leaf

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Way It Was

American eagle with flag


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.

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24 comments:

  1. Hi JJ, Labrum reminds me very much of a teacher I once had (and who I wrote a post about), Mr Timmis was a stickler for good manners, respecting others and hard work. He died more than 30 years ago now but I still remember him fondly.

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    1. Sarah: Thanks for the follow. Those are the examples that young people should emulate today.

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    1. Karen M: Yes. That is how you set a good example for young people.

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  3. How perfectly wonderful, although sadly mostly rare today. Perhaps others will step up to this level! Well done.

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    1. Karen S: It is very sad that it is rare today. However, it is obviously still alive. I hope we begin to rekindle that flame as a society.

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  4. SOOOO happy to hear that the school backed him up. Character is SOOO important. Much more important than playing any team sport!

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    1. Michael: Yes. That is definitely the big story here. Many lessons to be learned.

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  5. Another wonderful, honorable American who deserves the attention that he has received. I hope that others will emulate this kind of behavior. Society needs more of just this kind.
    I like to think that every story like this one takes away from time wasted on losers who seem to be begging for attention and wasting time every day. Kudos to you for spreading the word!

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    1. Jasmine: Right on the money. These are the examples our kids need.

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  6. Hi JJ - that was a brave leadership decision to make - good for him, the school while establishing with the coaching and school staff a "Union Football Character" - what a great standard to set ...

    So pleased and I'm sure this story will be heard for many a year to come ... bullying or disrespect in any form is dreadful ... Hilary

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    1. Hilary: I could not agree more!

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  7. What a wonderful coach! This story teaches such a powerful lesson that I hope other schools will emulate.

    Julie

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  8. I think it is safe to say that he changed every single person's life on that team for the better... even the ones who don't win a spot back on that team. They learned an invaluable Life Lesson. At an appropriate age they all had to actively decide what sort of person they wanted to be in this world. That will be a turning point for them and will dictate how they choose to behave in the future. Labrum has set an example that maybe, just maybe the rest of the coaches will decide to embrace. Sports are about more than winning games. Or should be. A good coach or teacher has the ability to change a young person's life for the Outstanding. Thank you Coach Labrum for reminding ALL teaches and coaches of the power that they yield!!!

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    1. Robin: It seems like whatever the post might be, it always comes down to the old values.

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  9. An outstanding post about outstanding leadership. Being held responsible for bad behavior must be incorporated into school systems where future citizens are not only academically educated, but also being groomed for life in society. Hooray for Coach Labrum and the school system that stood behind him.

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    1. Linda: Like I mentioned to Robin, it always seems to come down to the age-old values.

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  10. Big wow! The principal at my daughter's high school tried an analogous consequence for misbehaving seniors, but the parents went ballistic and he relented. I told him that my daughter (then a junior) had just learned that she could break clearly stated rules with clearly stated consequences and get away with it.

    The following year, she broke one of my clearly stated rules and got grounded just before winter formal. When she wailed in protest that it was her senior year, I just shook my head in sympathy and said, "Bummer."

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    1. Galen: Keep it up, (which I am sure you will). Your daughter will respect you for it!

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  11. WOW! I am so impressed with the parents & principal for backing this coach up. And the players, for doing the work and earning their jerseys back. well done!

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    1. CailinMarie: It's what the doctor ordered for our society.

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  12. What a brilliant coach. Could do with someone like that here. Sadly, the children in secondary schools here seem to have more control than the teachers.

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    1. Vintage Jane: I taught in that secondary school system. I do boast that my class was a little different, but you are right. In general, students control the teachers (but not in my class). I focused on the welfare of the kids, not my job, money, unions, standards, bureaucracy, etc., or how they felt about themselves. I was there to teach - and they learned.

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