Local schools using Strasburg situation as learning tool

When news that Strasburg’s boys basketball program had been suspended indefinitely came out last week many athletic directors and coaches throughout the area talked to students about rules of misconduct, including hazing.

The Strasburg program was suspended from practicing or playing games pending an investigation of alleged physical misconduct among student athletes.

Skyline athletic director Bill Cupp said he wanted to use the situation as a learning tool for the athletes.

“I stressed to my coaches the importance of supervision of our athletes and the opportunity to use this as an educational moment for our student athletes,” Cupp said. “Our coaches spoke with our athletes and gave them specific examples of what is unacceptable and the consequences of inappropriate actions.”

Talking to the athletes on the subject isn’t anything new.

Both Central High School Athletic Director Kenny Rinker and Stonewall Jackson High School Athletic Director Todd Fannin both said that it is discussed at every parent meeting the schools have. Rinker said it is also covered in the school handbook that athletes and parents receive.

“We mention it to parents. We mention it to athletes. We mention it to coaches just like they do at Strasburg,” Fannin said.

Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner said that he tries to emphasize to his players to treat each other well.

“I try to tell people you should treat people with respect no matter what,” Burner said. “The unfortunate part is people don’t always listen to you. It’s such a tough thing. I just don’t know why anyone would ever treat anybody poorly. I don’t understand that.”

Over 10 years ago, Burner’s team had a hazing incident at a summer camp.

“It was frustrating when it happened before. It’s frustrating now,” Burner said. “Certainly when this came out (last week) we talked to our kids and said ‘hey, treat each other well. Don’t do those things.”

One of the problems for coaches is that the kids outnumber them, and it’s hard to always keep an eye on them.

“I don’t think there’s a school in the country that hasn’t had something happen as a result of maybe not having adequate supervision. It doesn’t necessarily have to be athletically. It could be something in the school, anything – band or whatever,” Rinker said. “I don’t think any school is immune to that.”

Sherando girls basketball coach Mike Marsh said that he hasn’t had any big problems with the players in his program.

He said one thing that helps is the players are aware that he is watching over them as much as possible.

“When we’re traveling on the bus, even if we lost, I don’t sulk, I’m watching the kids,” Marsh said. “On the way over, I’m watching the kids. That’s the thing I think they know, that we’re looking. I think if they know you are being vigilant over them, I tell them they’re like my kids. I’m going to watch them. They’re going to do what I would expect my own childrern to do. So because of that, I’m watching all the time.”

Burner said that in the last week they have made some changes with how closely they watch the players.

Cupp said they are considering changes as well.

“We are reviewing all of our procedures, in terms of athletic travel and locker room interaction,” Cupp said. “We are implementing procedures for where the coaches sit on the bus and the separation of genders, when needed, when traveling.”

Both Cupp and Marsh said that they don’t feel like incidents, such as hazing, have grown over the years, but social media has changed how easy it is to find out about the incidents.

“In my opinion, hazing has become less prevalent than in years past. The anti-bullying campaigns and the education of both students and staff have helped curtail some of the past’s practices, but it is obvious that we have not eradicated this issue,” Cupp said. “Social media outlets have allowed for the faster dissemination of information. In turn, we hear about these instances far more often than we would have 15 or 20 years ago. As a school we can use this information to reinforce our policies and continue to educate.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com