A high school football coach in Utah has taken the unusual step of suspending his entire team, hoping the 80 players might reflect, mature and return to the field with a life lesson in humility, respect and hard work.
Team members at Union High School in Roosevelt were disrespecting teachers, skipping classes, failing courses, and even engaging in cyberbully behavior, head coach Matt Labrum told Deseret News.
He told the entire team to turn in their jerseys and said they could not return to the field until they completed a lengthy community service obligation that included indoor and outdoor physical labor.
"We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn't want our young men going," Mr. Labrum said of his decision. "We felt like we needed to make a stand."
The message brought tears to the players, but Mr. Labrum said he has only heard words of support from the parents.
"They were in the locker room for a really long time," said the mother of one player. "They came out and there were tears, Those boys were wrecked. My son got in the car really upset and [said], 'First of all, there is no football team. It's been disbanded.'"
The parent said after she learned of the circumstances of the suspensions, that she supported the decision.
"It's not a punishment," she said. "It's a good life lesson."
School administrators also stood by the coaching staff. Principal Rick Nielsen said the coaches are "just excellent men" and that sometimes "we do think we're bigger than the game."
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