Are We Losing Good Sportsmen / Women Because of Stupid Initiation Ceremonies?

Taff


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I would welcome some advice please on something close to my heart.

After reading the “Step Too Far?” thread, and receiving a PM it made me realise that what happened to my boy wasn’t an isolated incident. I’ve started a separate thread, rather than deflect the other thread, so please forgive the selective copy and paste. Eg:

… My friends talented son has declined to play for his university 1st xv, because he does not want to undergo the disgusting initiation test that accompanies his selection!
I know a daughter of a friend who played good level netball (county? or whatever they have in netball?) at school, but won't join her uni netball club for similar reasons.
.. Ive never come across these initiation rituals over here .. but played for my brothers club (guest appearance) and he warned me after the game that a ritual may take place. To me it was disgusting and perverted .…If that was my potential new club, I would have avoided them for that alone.
Evening of my University 1st XV debut I was carried from Hawks Club to Magdalen Bridge and thrown into the Cam. … The College 1st XV was much nastier involving a bumper of port, naked run around the Prioress Quadrangle, and locked bar door on return.

My boy has just gone up to Uni last September and decided not to join the University Rugby team simply because he didn’t want to go through the humiliating initiation ceremony. This is a boy who has played rugby since he was 4, has played U11 and U15 District rugby, played for the school and the Youth team of the local rugby club - ending up playing alongside 4 team mates who are now in the Wales U19 squad in 2 consecutive Welsh Youth Cup finals at the Millennium Stadium. Ie, he's "pretty handy". This isn’t some kid who couldn’t be bothered; this is a committed 6’ 3” intelligent outgoing boy who has trained twice a week for the last 15 years .... and his involvement with rugby couldn’t have stopped any faster if he’d run into a brick wall.

At first I was just sad and quietly hoped that the urge to play again would return in time, but 5 months on and his boots are still in his room, alongside his lovingly ironed kit. I really hope he doesn't jack in rugby for life, but what can I do? He’s 19 so I can't tell him to play, and at 6’ 3” I sure as hell can’t make him play.

My boys initiation ceremony would have involved running around the pitch naked and downing a few tinnies on the way. The initiation ceremony I was told about via PM was a lot worse – I won’t repeat it without consent, but with consent I’d happily tell you what was involved in glorious non-sugar coated technicolour. Sugar coating these “ceremonies” does us no favours at all, and I reckon we have an obligation to “tell it like it is” if we are to face up to what is IMO a serious problem.

Frankly I would like to meet up (face to face – not by telephone or via e-mail) with someone in authority at my boys Uni, and make it crystal clear that I’m not happy. But frankly this is probably a national issue not just a Taff household issue, as it must be happening in other families year in year out. If this has happened to my boy, nationwide how may other good rugby / netball / hockey / football players have already ditched their favourite sport because of a humiliating or painful or terrifying initiation ceremony, and how many will in future? As may dad used to say “Someone needs their arse booted”.

Any other examples or advice on how to approach this would be really appreciated. You can PM me if you don’t want to post it on a public forum. Thanks
 
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crossref


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You should raise it with the university, there's no place for it in this day and age.
 

dave_clark


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one of the kids i used to coach told me about his (at uni, so nothing to do with me!), which included having to eat dog food and the requirement to vomit at least twice.

i'd like to think that, even aged 18, i would have had the bollocks to refuse to do something like this. sadly, i doubt i would have.
 

didds

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there is surely a local club he can play at, instead of Uni?

Nit that this dishes the real point - and I agree. Contact the Uni.

I suppose it depends on how "close" the uni RFC is to the "real" Uni, but if nothing else they carry their name presumably.

didds
 

Taff


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You should raise it with the university, there's no place for it in this day and age.
... Contact the Uni.
I've never had to do anything like this before. Who would be the best person to contact?

... I suppose it depends on how "close" the uni RFC is to the "real" Uni, but if nothing else they carry their name presumably.
Presumably bloody close; the Uni pay for the minibus and kit etc.

one of the kids i used to coach told me about his, which included having to eat dog food and the requirement to vomit at least twice.
He's done the dogfood thing on a club tour. The verdict? "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be".

That's mild compared to some of the ones I've heard of.
 
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Rushforth


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In answer to the question, almost certainly, but is the question itself relevant?

There was no way at age 18-21 that I was going to play in my own preferred position (Hooker) for my college, so I played more often for Churchill 2nd XV. In my time the boat clubs were generally the culprits of silly ceremonies, and the elite boaties swore off alcohol for months at a time, so in a way that is understandable.

More recently - since refereeing and coaching students - I've been inflicted with secondary embarrassment for young men (and in some cases young ladies) going somewhat beyond what I'm comfortable with. However, it seems to be a rule that there are some (old initiates) staying sober, so the silliness is relatively physically safe. Relative to dumping someone in the Cam that is, which was an instant sending-down (=expulsion) offence in my time.

Genuine athletes - those in the top 10% of potential - should have enough non-student playing options open to them in the UK. I hope!
 

Stuartg


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This afternoon I refereed my old college's (Queens') OBs against the current students. It's 40 years ago since I went up. Yes we drank, and occasionally too much, but never in my time do I recall any of these frankly unsavoury and unpleasant initiation ceremonies. My son went to the same college 8 years ago and also did not have to undergo these activities. Are there just isolated pockets of this unpleasant, needless activity or is it widespread?
 

crossref


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It's isolated pockets
No university will tolerate this sort of thing, and the sports teams will be dependent on uni funding / recognition. .
Speak to the dean , or someone like that. Or student welfare if that seems easier
 

4eyesbetter


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I would go to the university's athletic union in the first instance and ask them what they think about it; if the AU is good, they'll take action straight away. If they ignore you or fob you off, then Googling for '(university name) student welfare' should find the people to speak to, and it wouldn't harm to mention that the AU doesn't seem to think it's a problem.

You might also mention at some point that De Montfort got caned pretty hard by the RFU a few years ago (with attendant negative press) for running ridiculous initiation ceremonies, the most damning part of that judgement being:

[The club coach] was appointed in 2006 and found a Club adversely affected by an ingrained drinking culture.
...
Since the Club was taking its rugby more seriously, it did not want to put new players to the Club off and the initiation ceremonies had been watered down considerably.

If that's the considerably watered-down version of the initiation...
 

Waspsfan


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At 19, and a Uni student, isn't it time for him to fight this battle himself? Can't imagine him enjoying playing for a club who all think 'we have to pick this guy because his Daddy complained about us to the union / dean'. Does he even want you to fight this battle? Maybe he doesn't really want to play rugby. He's played all his life, maybe he wants to get involved in a million new activities university offers, but it is far easier to tell rugby mad Dad that it is the initiation that is preventing him? Unless he wants your help you should stay out of it.

He should contact someone senior at the club away from all the bravado of freshers week (there is always a sensible club official of some sorts) and then just start going to training. In my experience after the initiations at start of season clubs get on with trying to get enough players and win some games.
 

Taff


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At 19, and a Uni student, isn't it time for him to fight this battle himself?
Ideally no, but he doesn't want to rock the boat. Especially as he's only been there 5 months.

... Does he even want you to fight this battle? Maybe he doesn't really want to play rugby.
I honestly think he does want to play. He still goes to watch games etc. Telling dad to shove any ideas he doesn't like has never been an issue before; I don't see why it should become an issue now.

... Unless he wants your help you should stay out of it.
Difficult for a mum or dad to stay out of it.
 

Constantine

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I agree with you Taff. This will be some kind of 'I had to go through it so new boys must go through it' ridiculousness which seems to permeate sport to an increasing degree. Have a look at the awfulness that was Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin at the Miami Dolphins - a professional NFL team with hazing and bullying rituals that bankrupted rookies. It's part of a larger problem of toxic masculinity (occasionally girls get involved, but the penalties for not doing it are much lower for girls. They may be ostracised, they're unlikely to face overt bullying, and the initiations are usually tamer to begin with) which says that masculinity is a thing which can be taken away and is gained by stripping others of it. So the humiliated new boy gets his masculinity back by taking it from the next new group.

Personally Taff, I'd talk to your son. Say you as an official are concerned at this because initiations like this promote an attitude we don't want in rugby. Reassure him you don't want to force him to play, and going into uni is a time for new challenges which might involve new sports. Ask if he minds you talking to the university under your own name (which I assume he shares) and if he does, look at speaking anonymously. Here in NZ, you would speak to the proctor about it, but whoever is in charge of making sure that a student who misbehaves is adequately and humanely punished would be the person to talk to. Either that or a community liaison.

And we, as referees, need to look at this in a broader way. Cruel initiations to clubs promotes elitism, and usually involve a significant degree of homophobia. This goes against the spirit of rugby.

I had the unfortunate experience of turning down an appointment to referee a team named Therapists (two words, no spaces) because I a) felt unsafe around 22 men who happily allied themselves with that term, and b) was unwilling to associate myself personally with a team who called themselves that. I shouldn't have had to make that choice - no team should be in a sanctioned competition calling themselves therapists. Taff's son shouldn't have to make the choice between an initiation which I am going to assume involves some level of sexual assault and playing a sport he has up till now enjoyed.

And whatever initiations were like back in the day doesn't matter. This is not okay now. The fact people thought it was okay back then shows how far we have left to go.
 

FlipFlop


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MY first club in London (after Uni) used to flog people with a belt (drew blood) as their tour fines.

I (and several others) left the club, after refusing to take part.

At uni - there was no initiation, and not been involved in anything remotely close to what I would refer to as nasty (some nakedness, some drunkenness, but normally the person in charge has known those who won't take part and has devised a "special" welcome for those, that they can take part in. All very sensible.
 

Stuartg


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At 19, and a Uni student, isn't it time for him to fight this battle himself? Can't imagine him enjoying playing for a club who all think 'we have to pick this guy because his Daddy complained about us to the union / dean'. Does he even want you to fight this battle? Maybe he doesn't really want to play rugby. He's played all his life, maybe he wants to get involved in a million new activities university offers, but it is far easier to tell rugby mad Dad that it is the initiation that is preventing him? Unless he wants your help you should stay out of it.


He should contact someone senior at the club away from all the bravado of freshers week (there is always a sensible club official of some sorts) and then just start going to training. In my experience after the initiations at start of season clubs get on with trying to get enough players and win some games.

But we need to root this behaviour out for good. Taff's son may find a work around but what about others we don't know about who are put off. Are we prepared to let this go on so that next year's and subsequent years' students suffer and/or are lost to the game? Just saying someone should grow a pair is not acceptable.
 

Browner

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I'm wondering how Exeter Chiefs would deal with a new player who says ...... "coach, after i've scored a try, do I really have to accept the other players squeezing and/or rubbing my crown jewels? ..... am I still selected?"
 

Stuartg


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Exeter Chiefs RFC is an employer and is bound by employment law. No employee should be expected to accept such behaviour.
 

andyscott


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Is running up and down a pitch naked that bad, or downing a few tinnies? or drinking a pint of ahem fluid etc etc.

Hmm maybe just say I am not doing it or just embrace it. ;)
 

RobLev

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Is running up and down a pitch naked that bad, or downing a few tinnies? or drinking a pint of ahem fluid etc etc.

It depends; is it anything to do with the game of rugby which presumably the members of the club joined to play?

Hmm maybe just say I am not doing it

Of course. No repercussions there.

Why are the ceremonies created and administered?

or just embrace it. ;)
 

Blue Smartie


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Rugby and rugby players will always benefit from playing for each other, team cohesiveness, common goals and shared experiences.
Life has moved on though and it's no shock that puerile, abusive, degrading bullying is does not make a happy team. Unfortunately, uni teams often see themselves as in competition with other societies and feel the need to perpetuate a clique.
You don't need to be all new age guru about this but there are ways to build [new] traditions and do team bonding without threatening people.
When I went to Uni I didn't drink and was playing high level rugby. I think I would have told the rugby club to shove their initiations, but I don't think I needed the club as much as they wanted me to play (as it turned out I played club rugby for four years instead).
 

Shelflife


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Is running up and down a pitch naked that bad, or downing a few tinnies? or drinking a pint of ahem fluid etc etc.

Hmm maybe just say I am not doing it or just embrace it. ;)

Andy it all depends what you are comfortable with, some traditions are a laugh, some are to me anyway plain stupid, how not wearing underwear became a tradition is beyond me and how is it policed ? does someone go around sliding their hands down your trousers? Sorry but thats not going to happen unless you buy me drinks and a dinner !!

The "tradition" at my brothers club is to drink a pint and a shot, the pint of course is a dirty one ,slops fag ash shorts etc and the short was to drank from the foreskin of one of the members (pun intended).


Not for me im afraid, why you would make someone drink something thats guaranteed to sicken them and then to drink a shot in that manner is beyond me.
 
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