With the fallout from the Ray Rice scandal still swirling around the country, it is encouraging to know that two of our local high school football teams have actively engaged for several years in programs that foster responsibility, integrity and positive character traits.
According to Frank Marcucio, head football coach at Westhill High School in Stamford, his athletes have benefitted for more than five years from A Football Journey, a program focused on character building and designed to help equip athletes for meeting life's challenges both on and off the field. Offered to coaches across the country, the four-year curriculum includes sections on dating, social behavior and setting goals.
Marcucio also teaches a class on sports management and marketing, where the issue of violent behavior by members of NFL teams has been addressed in various ways over the last few weeks. Class requirements include written "Article Summaries", in which students choose an article that interests them, summarize the topic and then analyze its effect or impact on society, the business world and the student personally. Several students have chosen articles on Ray Rice and other NFL players under scrutiny for abusive behavior, and the essays have ranged from passionate venting to matter-of-fact presentations to personal revelations about abuse within their own families.
As well, the class spent time talking about how the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL had managed the Rice scandal - what they did right or wrong and how they might have handled it differently.
"It was the perfect storm for what we were doing in class," Marcucio said.
At Darien High School, the football team recently completed its fourth annual SACK Domestic Violence - Get off the Bench campaign. Conceived in 2011 by DHS student Alex Pear, the campaign seeks to increase awareness of domestic violence at the high school level, promote taking a stand against it and support efforts by awareness groups during October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Engaging the football team and mounting the campaign during Homecoming at the high school seemed the ideal way to draw attention to the cause and have the greatest impact. On the morning of the big game, all of the school's football players have a purple stripe drawn under one eye, which they sport throughout the day. During the week leading up to the game, posters of the team captains wearing the stripe are displayed in the school's lobby, along with other visuals and information provided by the DVCC Teen PeaceWorks Club at Darien High School.
Rob Trifone, head football coach at DHS, said he was happy to support the SACK initiative three years ago and to continue that support each season.
"It was an opportunity to help create awareness and let the student body and school community know that if a group of athletes who play a contact sport understands that there is no place for domestic violence, it would send a strong message."
Trifone said that he and his players have talked about Ray Rice and the NFL and he agreed the surrounding publicity undoubtedly would result in even greater awareness about SACK this year.
"All of my players understand the significance of the purple eye swoosh and what they are representing, they are in full support of SACK, and every member of the team is opposed to any support that a domestic violence offender would get," he said.