Connor’s Corner

It truly takes a full team effort to accomplish great things and as an athlete, you understand when you’re part of something greater than yourself.

Richie Incognito, a Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, doesn’t have to worry about being a part of something greater than himself for a while. Incognito was recently suspended from the Dolphins for conduct detrimental to the team.

He has been alleged to have bullied teammate Jonathan Martin, Miami’s second-round pick in 2012. An investigation is underway to shine light on this dreary situation and the actions of Dolphins teammates – primarily Incognito.

Martin left the team for emotional issues, and was reported to say that he will sit out the remainder of the 2013 season.

Incognito is alleged to have delivered racist and derogatory text messages and voicemails to Martin before his departure from the team. Pressuring Martin to partake in expensive outings and excessive pranks has also been linked to Incognito’s treatment of his teammate.

This led me to think that if bullying can take place in professional sports, then it must be playing a role in youth athletics.

I spoke with Alex Macfarlane, Gannon Club Hockey defenseman, and wanted to know if bullying took place during his athletic career.

“Absolutely. Not in the context of Gannon University Club Hockey, but on my high school teams,” Macfarlane said, “especially against promising and talented freshmen and sophomores.”

Hazing or bullying is a common practice among sporting teams when new rookies join the squad. Younger players will reluctantly go along with the bullying to earn the respect of veteran players.

I played hockey and baseball for the majority of my life and witnessed what could be perceived as bullying. In my adolescent years, I like to think that I treated everyone fairly, but I definitely witnessed some kids get made fun of for various reasons.

At that moment in time, I was a follower, much like the teammates of Incognito who witnessed Martin’s harassment. When you are young, it is easy to merely strive for a sense of belonging.

Bullying is a real problem that goes far beyond the realm of sports, but I like to think that as I got older things began to change.

As I grew, my attitude toward bullying changed dramatically. During my maturation process, I learned the leaders of a team are responsible for what takes place in the locker room.

Incognito, the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009 according to a Sporting News poll, was perceived as the veteran leader of the Dolphins offensive line. Teammates look to their leaders for guidance and support as they try to help the team, but in Miami’s case their veteran leader was a sheisty character.

As the captain of my high school hockey team, I worked hard to make the younger players feel comfortable. I understood that it would take all of the members of my team to work toward a common goal to be successful, and one weak link could prove detrimental.

The veteran players would always drive the freshman and sophomores to practice after school and looked after them.  On my team, character was more important than talent.

Bullies are at large in our cruel world, but it takes leaders to make a stand. The Dolphins need to take a good hard look at their leadership from the top down, and try to build in Miami and should focus on players’ character along with talent levels.

 

CONNOR SONDEL

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