Maggie: Alright. I brought Demetrius in with me so we could talk high school football. That is because one coach in Utah is making national headlines after suspending fifty of his players. Is that right? Fifty?
Demetrius: Right, Maggie. That is almost the entire team. Now, they had their jerseys taken away. But the coaches, and even most of the players, agree that they had a good reason.
Coach Matt Labrum: I think the most important thing is that we build character.
Demetrius: Union High School football coach Matt Labrum was frustrated. He was hearing that his players were skipping class, getting bad grades and might have even been cyber-bullying a fellow student.
Zach Roll: I wasn’t part of the disrespect, but I saw it go on just as much as everybody else. And I’m just as much at fault for not making it stop.
Demetrius: But instead of benching the players, he took it a step further and suspended all fifty varsity players on the team, making them turn in their jerseys and equipment until they could earn their way back on the team.
Coach Labrum: It was very emotional, both sides, with coaches and players.
Gavin Nielsen: You’re like, ‘what are we going to do without football?’
Jordan Gurr: Being pulled off the team was a horrible feeling for all of us.
Demetrius: He handed the players a letter outlining his decision. ‘Gentleman, we are not pleased with how our football brothers are representing our family, school…and yourselves,’ he wrote. ‘It is a privilege to play this wonderful game!’ Labrum then laid out what each player would need to do to rejoin the squad: attend all practices, be on time, and have no discipline problems. Each would need to complete a community service project and memorize a quote about good character as well.
Allen: I think we deserve every little bit of it.
Demetrius: With the support of the coaches, the school administration and even the player’s parents, the team spent time together working on a different set of skills.
Coach Labrum: We did some service as far as digging weeds and cleaning. On Tuesday, we went to the senior citizen centers and we spent time playing games with them and listening to some of their stories.
Demetrius: And then a study hall, which was followed by a team meeting with some good news.
Coach Labrum: We went back through all the criteria that we’ve been marking throughout the week and then we saw who had earned their jerseys back.
Demetrius: Not all of Labrum’s players met the criteria, but most did.
Player: It’s a lot of relief, for sure. Getting my jersey back, I love it.
Demetrius: Just in time for the homecoming game later tonight.
Coach Labrum: It’s a wonderful thing to see young men take a challenge. And I think a lot of lessons were learned, and I think some were learned this week. And I think some will be learned later on in their life. I think this is something that we’ll all remember.
Zach: And hopefully, it’s going to show to everybody that football is not about just playing the game; you’ve got to learn. And being a great person is really what all this amounts to when you get older.
Demetrius: Now, the coach says he is shocked at how much media attention his decision has been getting. And he says he is surprised at how positive the feedback has been.
Maggie: Well, it will be interesting to see what happens at tonight’s big game.