Mid-Missouri High Schools Discuss Bullying in Sports

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CALIFORNIA - Mid-Missouri athletic directors and coaches alike are making sure bullying does not happen in their programs. With the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal gaining major media attention, bullying has been a topic across the nation and discussion on how to prevent it starting in high school has been prevalent. At California and Battle High Schools, it's no different.

 Football is a physical game, but lately it has also come to light that it is a mental game. 

The Jonathan Martin scandal has been the talk of the nation for a few weeks.  For those not familiar with the case, Martin, an offensive lineman with the Miami Dolphins, walked away from the team and told the media he had been receiving threatening text messages from a fellow teammate named Richard Incognito.  Martin finally could not take the harassment anymore and decided he no longer wanted to play with the Dolphins.  California High School Athletic Director Bob Staten said this about the Martin scandal.

 "They play the same game we do, but its a whole different environment. Those guys are getting paid, and they don't spend all day together."

Staten went on to say that the NFL is a business and unlike high school, there is no educational experience to help regulate things such as bullying. California Head Football Coach Marty Alberston said bullying is something that shouldn't be allowed on any level, whether it was high school or professional. Battle High School Athletic Director Matt Hale said it shouldn't matter whether Martin is a NFL offensive lineman.

"Bullying is still bullying and people are still people and it should not be tolerated," Hale said. 

According to a study done by SAFE, an organization that tries to promote awareness for Internet as well as safety within the high school system, one in four kids are bullied.

 Staten said back in the day when he coached football, it was not uncommon for there to be a freshman initiation.  In today's day and age, "Coaches will learn you want your team to be united," Staten said.

"You don't want anyone on your team being bullied.  That doesn't do your team any good, that doesn't do anyone any good."

California has a no bullying policy and Staten said if he hears of any bullying going on in his school, it is immediately addressed and put a stop to.

"Bullying is getting more attention in the media, and rightly so," Hale said. " Bullying should not be acceptable. It's not acceptable here at Battle and it shouldn't be acceptable in college, it shouldn't be acceptable anywhere, in sports, in any type of job, at school, it should not be acceptable."

The question the Jonathan Martin case raises is whether there is a locker room mentality that comes with football and whether  bullying is just part of the sport.

 "Football players are tough, but they're still kids, especially on the high school level," Alberston said. "Mental toughness is different than physical toughness."

While studies have shown that teens in sixth through tenth grade will most likely participate in an activity related to bullying, high schools are confident they are implementing the right programs to stop bullying before it begins. 

"We have a talk with all the players at the beginning of the season," Albertson said. " We talk about new freshman coming in and how they should be treated. We don't allow any bullying because we are happy that the kids are out there, as freshman."

 Staten echoed Albertson's statement, saying they instill a sense of camaraderie in their kids at an early age.

"Starting in middle school, we teach you that you're a teammate," Staten said. "You take care of each other.  If you're walking down the hall, and you see someone picking on somebody, you stop it." 

Both coaches and athletic directors alike said they believe bullying should never happen and are doing everything in their power to stop it before it reaches a level that could potentially harm another person.

 As for the NFL?  Richard Incognito was suspended but has since returned to playing for the Miami Dolphins while Jonathan Martin is not playing football anymore.