Tips for Student Athletes on How to Avoid Hazing in College Athletics

How can student athletes avoid the issue of hazing on college campuses, particularly in the athletic programs? Hazing has been around for years and is most commonly associated with fraternities and sororities.  

But in recent years the typical hazing incidents have increased in college athletics.  

According to a March 30, 2021 survey by David Kerschner and Elizabeth Allan of the University of Maine, 40.9% of athletes, taken from a 5 school survey, have experienced some form of hazing compared to 24.8% of non-athletes. According to the NCAA, that number is 74%. And according to a study by Stop Hazing, 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, or organizations have experienced hazing. In March 12th, 2021 Ben Kesslen from NBC News, reported that 50 college students had died from hazing since the year 2000.  

Keep hazing in the equation as you intend to play college sports and zero in on the culture of the programs you consider. Below are some tips to think about. It’s important to know what hazing is and how to avoid it. 

Understand what hazing is

According to Best Colleges, hazing is a ritual that involves risk, pain, or harm, typically as part of initiation into a group. Recognize that any activity that cause physical, emotional, or psychological harm and humiliation is considered hazing. 

Some examples of hazing include being: 

  • Forced to eat or drink something
  • Hit by thrown food or liquid
  • Beaten
  • Forced to wear certain clothing (or no clothing)
  • Forced to destroy property
  • Verbally abused
  • Humiliated or belittled 
  • Forced to skip sleep

This is a very short list, but it gives you an idea.  

Trophy case full of trophies

Beware of the bling

Many athletes will make the mistake of choosing a college for the bling. In other words, they choose colleges solely for the traditions, the trophies, the scholarships, or how much attention they get from the coaches and players.  While it is fun to look at these facets of a program and to take them into consideration, they are not immune to hazing.  

Research with a purpose

When you research a college go as deep as you can. Look “under the hood” and seek multiple ways to find out what you are looking for. Know what you want out of your college experience, and then use that information as your guide to find the right college for you. Find My Team has the PCM6+ Assessment to help student athletes figure out what they want and need in their college experience. 

Find out as much as you can about a team and a campus’ culture.  Does this school or the athletic program have any prior incidents of hazing? Start following your programs and the campuses on social media and in the news. Awareness is key. 

Ask the right questions to the right people

When you are on campus, ask the right questions to the right people. You often have the opportunity to meet a lot of different people on campus including administrators, coaches, players, trainers, professors, presidents, etc. Ask them questions that fit your needs. Ask different people the same questions to see if you get similar answers. Take good notes and keep track of the answers you receive and the research you do. 

Modern looking college campus building and the lawn

Make multiple visits when possible

Visiting campuses more than once provides an opportunity to get a feel of what it is really like to live, study, and play sports there. Multiple visits allows you to observe practices, games, and individual work. You can also sit in classes, visit dorms, and walk the campus on different days.  Visiting on game days allows you to experience what campus life is like on those days. 

Visiting multiple practices and games gives you the opportunity to see the coach working in different situations. How do they treat the players? How do they treat the players that don’t play as much? You can also see how the players treat each other during both practices and games. 

Use social media

You can follow your top programs, the universities, coaches, and players on social media. Pay attention to what they are posting and/or what gets posted about the college as a whole. You can learn a lot from observing and it will aid in your research.  

A word of caution: What you see on social media is not always 100% truth, but if something doesn’t feel or look right, you can investigate further.  

Know your rights

Ask the administration what their policies are on hazing and what rights the student athletes have. What is the reporting protocol? What actions can the student athlete take if they find themselves in a situation where hazing might be in question?  

At the end of the day, you want a team and a program that focuses on respect and sportsmanship, where all players are treated equally, and the environment is safe. 

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