by Adam Pfeiffer ‘20
As a result of the infamous hazing incident involving the Damascus JV football team on Halloween 2018, many were expecting MCPS to hand down stricter policies regarding locker room supervision. The county more than delivered, releasing a seven-page guideline for the specific actions coaches and schools must take, and it was implemented beginning with the fall sports season in the 2019-2020 school year.
The new policies mandate numerous requirements and rules, and while they are all well-intended, they are excessive and unnecessary. At schools like Sherwood, where there has not been a history of any hazing, these procedures are simply an inconvenience. Head coaches are required to write out a three-page plan, detailing very specifically how every single athlete on the team will be monitored while on school property and not at practice. In addition to these plans, the coaches have to create a backup plan in case the primary procedure is unable to be followed on a given day. Both outlines must be approved by the school’s athletic director and principal.
Paid (Stipend) coaches are the only coaches permitted to supervise players, meaning that either the head coach or another paid coach must be with all players at all times, and they cannot leave the team under the care of a volunteer assistant coach. It may, in turn, be very difficult for head coaches who are not in the building to try to coordinate supervision of their players.
However, there are positives to the new requirements, albeit the strong negatives. “If a kid ran late to practice, it made me late to practice,” said football Assistant Coach Matt Holonich. “But it also allowed me to build a better relationship with the players being there [in the locker room], and having conversations with them about life.”
The new regulations also affect the athletes as well. When transitioning from a team activity, such as a lift or a film session, players often move to enter their designated team room, only to find it locked, and subsequently have to find a coach to open the room. As a result, players can, and have, ran late to practice, as well as the coach in charge of supervision that day.
What happened at Damascus was tragic. There’s no denying that, and most people felt that something needed to be changed in a response to the incident. However, what was passed sounds like a solution on paper, whereas actually implementing these policies is a different issue. Ultimately, the only thing MCPS truly accomplished by passing these regulations was providing a way to cover themselves if any similar incidents to the Damascus case that happen in the future.