Volusia Schools: Learning valuable lessons at Atlantic High

I suppose I sound like my father and grandfather before him, when I say, “In my day we. . .” followed by an abject condemnation of everything “new,” modern or progressive.

We had it tough – walked five-miles to school, uphill, both ways.

You get the picture.

It’s human nature, and I suppose the need to humble our juniors by pointing out how easy they have it started with Neanderthal man (“Stone tools?  We didn’t have any tools!  You wanted a Mastodon steak, you ripped it out with your teeth, son.  It’s why God gave you incisors.  Times were tough back in the Pleistocene, I tell you. . .”) 

The good-natured ‘humbling’ of our kids just progressed – or dissolved – from there.

Earlier this week, we learned of “hazing” allegations filed by the parent of an Atlantic High School student against head football coach Matt Dixon.  While returning from a recent game, Dixon ordered his players off the team bus and directed them to perform light calisthenics in a shopping center parking lot.

To their credit, the Volusia County School District conducted a timely investigation and determined that the issue was one of childish disrespect and open insubordination – rather than the physical and mental abuse of vulnerable youngsters.

It appears that several of the students – including the accuser’s son – were disruptive and refused reasonable attempts by responsible adults to stop the ruckus.  In turn, Dixon used the opportunity to reestablish his dominance as head coach, restore order, and engage in an effective team-building exercise before things escalated.

Apparently, the whole incident amounted to a few repetitions of a strength and agility drill called “up-downs” – an exercise they do every day at practice.

When the accuser’s son and a few others refused Dixon’s directive – they were asked to consider the ramifications of their decision, participate with the team, or turn in their equipment.

You know, the important life lesson of, “take responsibility for your own decisions” – cause and effect – being held accountable for your own acts and omissions.

Of course, the overexcited ‘helicopter mom’ attempted to validate her stupid attempt to ruin a young educator’s life and career by using her 15-minutes of professional victimhood to full effect.

According to an interview in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Supermom (who I’m not identifying by name) said, “If you need to make them run drills, you do that at practice, at the school.  You do not do that in public; I am sorry.”

The hell you are.

You’re not sorry – but you will be – when Junior repeatedly boomerangs back into your spare room every time his feelings get bruised and he’s just to overwrought to stand on his own two feet as an adult.

In my view, this is a misguided parent intent on developing her son into a co-dependent, self-absorbed, hyper-sensitive tool with a strong sense of entitlement.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone.

Fact is, we’re raising a whole a generation of them.

Don’t believe me?  Just check the nearest ‘safe space’ at any college or university in the country.

(If you do, please be careful not to trespass on the “interactional” territory of any self-identified ethnic/gender/religious group who may feel offended or threatened by your own ethnicity, gender or religious preference. . . Fair warning.)

Bullying and hazing are sensitive topics these days – and well they should be.

The intentional infliction of demeaning, sadistic or punishing mental and physical abuse is ethically and morally wrong, and it should never be tolerated.  (Unless you’re into that.  Who am I to judge?)

Coach Dixon wasn’t abusing anyone.

During my basic military training, I was routinely subjected to the type of “hazing” I think our young mother is trying to describe.  In fact, our drill sergeants began “hazing” us long before daybreak and continued well past sundown.

Those guys brought the art and science of “hazing” to a whole new level.

They yelled.  They screamed.  They called us vile names.  They pushed us well beyond the point of what we thought was our point of exhaustion, and they physically “corrected” us whenever they felt it necessary.  (As a friend of mine experienced, “I’m not saying having your chest hair ripped out by the roots is fun – but I guarantee you’ll never leave the top button of your shirt undone again. . .”)

In addition to the physical challenges, the Army used subtle mental “hazing” as well.

There is nothing in the world like returning from an all-day forced march with full field gear, only to find that the training cadre have ransacked your barracks – bunks in a pile, mattresses out the windows, your locker upside down.

Builds character.

The intensity of our training was specifically designed for one purpose – to break us down as self-absorbed individuals then collectively build us back up as a disciplined and cohesive team.

Our military has been doing this with incredible success for over two-hundred years.

I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I recently heard one of our nation’s most accomplished Special Forces commandos – a true ‘Tier 1’ operator with over 10-years of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – explain that during his brutal military training and qualification he learned that there is no hardship that will befall him on any given day that he cannot survive and overcome.

It’s simply a matter of taking things as they come – and developing the mental toughness to never quit.  The ability to focus on the next second, minute, or hour until the objective is accomplished – then move on to the next challenge.

What a great metaphor for life.

My fear is that today’s misguided, but well-meaning, parents are so intent on intervening in every aspect of their child’s development that they are removing the all-important traits of self-reliance and the ability to overcome personal adversity.

Let them scrape a knee.  Take a punch and give one.  Stand up for themselves and others – and learn kindness, empathy and respect.

It won’t hurt them, and I guarantee they’ll thank you for it later.

Support your children.  But give them the tools they need to adapt and survive in an ever-changing and very dangerous world that will not be as kind, loving or caring to them as you are.






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