Column: Discipline Dilemma

Jake Pfeiffer, News Editor & Copy Editor

Collective punishment has been used for virtually all of human history. Tyrants and generals have all employed the punishment of a group for the actions of an individual.
And it’s not limited to authoritarian use. America, throughout its history, has utilized collective punishment. Ancient Greek democracies, Britain, and countless other democratic nations have used collective punishment as a tool of deterrence. Oh, and apparently youth sports coaches?
In both the classroom and on the practice field, collective punishment is often used to encourage conformity and group bonding to end misbehavior, according to The Conversation.
Plainly, this doesn’t work. According to a The Age interview with Jonathan Sargeant, a senior lecturer at an Australian university, collective punishment both devalues positive behaviors and creates divides by pinning the group against the individual who brought on a punishment.
Clearly, by using collective punishment, we are killing the motivation to do well and dividing sports teams in the process.
If the goal is to help kids grow, then collective punishment fails. According to Sergeant, collective punishment doesn’t give kids any tools or training on how to avoid bad behaviors. Instead, it just socially isolates them from the innocent and makes success even more difficult for the athlete.
If the goal is to have fun, then collective punishment destroys it. No one wants to be punished, especially for something they didn’t do.
Isolation, lack of motivation, and a simple lack of enjoyment all have greater effects than just hurting team performance, or short term happiness. To start, 70% of kids quit youth sports by age 13, primarily because they don’t find sports fun anymore, according to a National Alliance for Youth Sports poll. Collective punishments are certainly not the only factor in losing fun, but they decrease enjoyment, meaning they do contribute to this percentage.
What happens to kids who don’t play sports? According to a Washington University study, playing sports can help improve brain structure and reduce depression. And according to the CDC, physical activities have a host of health benefits, ranging from maintaining a healthy weight to improving bone structure.
Not playing sports causes kids to potentially miss out on all of these benefits. We should be doing everything we can to encourage kids to play sports, and collective punishment actively pushes kids away.
Being ostracized from a team also has a host of harms. According to Tulane University, Social isolation has physical effects ranging from sleeplessness to a reduction in immune strength, and has mental effects ranging from increased anxiety, depression and suicide rates.
Of course, isolation as a result of collective punishment isn’t permanent. But even in a short time, these effects can be devastating. We simply cannot use a system that actively encourages the isolation of kids.
Youth sports need a better way to punish misbehavior. One that doesn’t come with so many mental and physical problems for all involved.
After all, aren’t youth sports meant to help kids grow?