TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for October 9, 2022

Oct. 9, 2022 — When the field hockey and lacrosse communities are capable of great evil

The release of a report by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the night before a damning documentary on sexual and verbal abuse within the world of women’s and youth soccer, has cast a light on what is wrong within the world of amateur sports, the way coaches treat their players, and the fecklessness of the enforcement mechanisms for so-called “Safe Sport.”

One of the things I did after reading the report was to do a little research. On this blog, we’ve been documenting numerous instances when figures in field hockey and lacrosse run afoul of the law.

We have seen a bizarre kidnapping/murder case involving a girls’ high school lacrosse coach, a murder committed by a field hockey player during a street fight, a former field hockey writer driving to a motel seeking to meet a female teenager that turned out to be a federal agent, and a field hockey booster club officer who quietly ventured into the tournament promotion business, all while hiding a dark secret.

But for the purposes of what I was looking for, I was able to cobble together a list of names of people who, since I’ve been running this site, have been either arrested, charged, or administratively sanctioned on morals charges or for aiding and abetting the commission thereof.

As of Thursday afternoon, the list of people had grown to include 21 people. If you want to know who they are, I’ve talked about these individuals in one way or another since 2006, and you can use the search function in the fourth column of this blog.

There are a couple of reasons I don’t want to publish my list here. One is that many of these individuals have gone on with their lives after their brush with the law. Some have even gone back into teaching after having their licenses suspended, others are gainfully employed. A couple are in prison.

Another reason is that, frankly, the list of people in could grow. Over the course of 33 years of writing about field hockey and lacrosse, you hear stories of behaviors by people in charge, and some of them turn towards abuse. Some of these stories can be brushed off with the explanation, “That coach isn’t for everyone.”

In addition, scenarios unthinkable today occurred in eras when they weren’t thought to be wrong. Take, for instance, the scenario of British army officers teaching children field hockey in Walpole, Mass., giving the intramural teams porcine-related nicknamed (because of the way the players ran while trying to play the ball with their sticks). When I tell non-Massachusettsans that the colloquial nickname for the Walpole field hockey team is the Porkers, I get looks of incredulity.

Coaching behaviors of the past were unquestioned, all the way back to the days of Constance Applebee. The grande dame of American field hockey was a stern taskmistress during summer camps, and often yelled out epithets like, “You one-legged turnip!” or “Run, you dumb things.”

The stern, unsmiling coach was a trope for most of the 20th Century. It was through that the best coaches were the loudest, barking orders and some criticism of umpires from the sidelines, providing a soundtrack that drowned out any conversation amongst spectators.

The lines of authority were clear: the coach was the boss, the players had to do what the coach said. And in amateur sports like field hockey and lacrosse, that is clearly an imbalance of power, and was (and is) ripe for abuse.

As I mentioned earlier this week, SafeSport, the mechanism for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for reporting abuse by coaches, only scratches the surface when it comes to abuse. While I have a list of 21 field hockey figures, SafeSport’s list only mentions seven.

Now, in girls’ lacrosse, I have run into about eight accounts of abuse. There are, however, no entries in the SafeSport database for anyone involved in lacrosse.

And so, regrettably, it goes.