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Utah football coach suspends entire team, requires teens show good character to play

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Coach Matt Labrum made a controversial decision to suspend his entire football team for questionable off-field behavior.

CBS This Morning

Coach Matt Labrum made a controversial decision to suspend his entire football team for questionable off-field behavior.

To have clear eyes and full hearts, they had to lose.

A Utah high school football coach blindsided his players when he announced last weekend he was suspending all 80 of them — and warned that they had to earn their way back onto the squad by showing good character.

Coach Matt Labrum’s unconventional play wasn’t just about the team’s on-field record, although they had just come off a crushing loss. He was more concerned about how the Union High School teens were handling themselves away from the gridiron after hearing reports of cyberbullying, bad grades and truancy.

Essentially, they had to earn “the privilege to play.”

“We want student-athletes that are humble to learn and grow through adversity and success on and off the field,” coaches wrote in a letter passed out Saturday and obtained by the Deseret News. “We want a team that others want to associate themselves with and support; winning isn't the most important criteria for that to happen.”

The uplifting letter also listed five things each player must fulfill if they want to rejoin the team, which represents the small city of Roosevelt: They have to make an effort to attend every practice; be on time; receive no F’s or disciplinary problems in class; do an individual service project that helps their families; and memorize a quote about good character — and recite it to a coach.

Union High School’s football team suffered a 40-16 loss at their last game — but that wasn’t what drive the coaches to bench the entire team.

CBS This Morning

Union High School’s football team suffered a 40-16 loss at their last game — but that wasn’t what drive the coaches to bench the entire team.

The expectations shocked some of the kids — and the idea that there could be no more football left some of them in tears.

“When they said we’re going to turn our jerseys in, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve never been cut.’ I figured we’d just been cut. There were no more games. I was sad,” junior Jordan Gurr told the Deseret News.

But Labrum was adamant that his boys needed to refocus.

Earlier this week, he had the benched players do community service.

“We did some service as far as digging weeds and cleaning,” he told CBS News. “On Tuesday, we went to the senior center and played some games with them and listened to their stories.”

Players with Union High School’s football team hit the books first to show that they’re ready to get back on the field.

CBS This Morning

Players with Union High School’s football team hit the books first to show that they’re ready to get back on the field.

Already, dozens of the players have earned their jerseys back and they’ll be able to return to the field this week.

Some parents were initially upset with Labrum and the other coaches, but they reconsidered when they saw how their sons were taking the challenge seriously, the Deseret News said.

“I thought, ‘Why is this a team-type issue when there should be individuals that should be held accountable?’” parent Jeremy Libberton griped.

But after reconsidering, “I’m encouraging my boy to stand strong, to stand with the team and get through it. … If there is not unity with me and the coach, then I become part of the problem,” he added.

Labrum said he hopes to see a lasting effect on his players each time they slip on their uniforms so that they understand what they do is greater than the game.

“I think a lot of lessons were learned this week, (and) I think some will be learned later in life,” he said. “I think this is something that we’ll all remember.”


by on Sep. 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM
Replies (21-30):
turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on Sep. 26, 2013 at 11:45 PM

My dad used to coach and if you didnt turn up to training you didnt play....end of.  Two superstars didnt think they needed to turn up to training the two nights before their grand final.

They sat on the bench the whole game.....they werent part of the winning team.  They ran crying to the management and my father was bought to heel at the next meeting.   He quit and they never have won another grand final since....25 years for some entitiled twats.

They also never went on to be national players....they could of but because of their attitude and my fathers respect from the national coaches...they burnt their own bridges.

turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on Sep. 26, 2013 at 11:47 PM

Ive also been unfortunate enough to be part of teams where the coaches have had nothing but winning in their eyes, to the point where only the great players get time and all the other kids have to watch from the bench.  Bad sportsmanship that could of been detrimental to small kids views of sport.

Those coaches need a friggin kick up the arse :-)

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Sep. 26, 2013 at 11:50 PM
1 mom liked this

Absolutely behind this, 110%!

canadianmom1974
by Gold Member on Sep. 27, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Or maybe they'd be worthy of being role models.

My hubby has a senior on his team that has flat out told the coaches and his team mates that he had to make a choice between football or a gang. Happily he chose football, has become a great leader on the team, a positive role model for the younger boys on the team, and has an excellent chance of going on to play at the college level - he may not move on beyond that, but he'll get an education out of it. All that instead of being a gang banger with no future.

I know a lot of people have a bad opinion of football, the players, and coaches ... I have seen so many positives come from it, but only because the adults in the situation, the coaches, place the emphasis on the kids being STUDENT athletes, and turning out successful young men, not just successful football players.


Quoting quickbooksworm:

This is the basic requirements of my son's karate team.  It's too bad more high school coaches don't do this.  Maybe Michael Vick and Aaron Hernandez wouldn't have become role models for children...

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DestinyHLewis
by Destiny on Sep. 27, 2013 at 12:38 AM

I personally think this coach deserves a Nobel prize!!! A friend sent this to me last night and I was thrilled! Can you imagine if more coaches, teachers, parents, administration, and the public in general took his lead? LOVE IT!!! 

Jack_Squat
by Silver Member on Sep. 27, 2013 at 6:46 AM
1 mom liked this
My little neck of the woods has been in the news a lot lately lol!
momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Sep. 27, 2013 at 9:29 AM

I though HS football players on many teams already had service and grade requirements, as well as requirements about getting to practice on time.   I'm glad this coach is enforcing them.  For such a drastic measures to be taken, the players must have been pretty out of control for a while.  

JordansGenius
by on Sep. 27, 2013 at 9:44 AM

I think this is awesome!

My biggest issue with the NFL is that the organization no longer has *any*  standards for maintaining integrity.

It's about time!



PamR
by Pam on Sep. 27, 2013 at 10:05 AM

I love this guy.  He did exactly what was right.  Bravo to him.

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Sep. 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM
My nephews' HS teams do.

Quoting momtoscott:

I though HS football players on many teams already had service and grade requirements, as well as requirements about getting to practice on time.   I'm glad this coach is enforcing them.  For such a drastic measures to be taken, the players must have been pretty out of control for a while.  

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