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What a novel concept for a quiescent high school atmosphere: Treating all teammates as equals

Passing on this article below — with pleasure: Moderator

Chris Tomlinson is a 5-foot 7-inch, 225-pound running back with strength, speed and a high degree of enthusiasm for his team and school. That mix can make the Manchester Memorial High senior an intimidating presence, particularly to younger members of the football program.Yet Tomlinson says he insists that all intimidation tactics be confined to the football field — and directed at opponents of the 2007 Crusaders.Widely recognized as a team leader, Tomlinson — nicknamed “L.T.” after San Diego Chargers All-Pro back LaDainian Tomlinson — expressed zero interest in making any teammate feel uncomfortable.

Nobody, he says, should have to subject himself to embarrassing, humiliating, or dangerous acts to earn a roster spot on the team.

“Everyone is equal. That’s how we do it,” Tomlinson said on Aug. 8, the first official day of New Hampshire’s high school football preseason. “Everyone gets an equal opportunity. If you want a position, you work (on the field) to get it, whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior.”

Tomlinson says his positive experience as a freshman taught him to treat younger players with respect.

As a kicker in ninth grade, Tomlinson received the “younger brother” treatment from his upperclassmen teammates. The older guys, Tomlinson says, knew how much he wanted to help the team succeed. Destroying that passion wouldn’t help achieve that goal.

“Those guys gave me something to look up to,” Tomlinson said. “They didn’t take the time to goof off. They wanted to show a positive attitude.”

Similar sentiments were echoed at the practice sites of Memorial’s Queen City rivals, West and Central. According to several athletes, coaches continually preach the importance of acting like family.

West sophomores Chris Brownlie and Jeff Wallace admitted they didn’t know what to expect from the bigger, stronger varsity veterans when the summer weight-lifting program began. Looking back, the boys say there was no reason to worry.

“Depending on your position, the older guys have taken us under their wings,” said Brownlie, attempting to make the varsity squad as an offensive and defensive lineman. “Everybody wants the same goal: make it to playoffs. As long as you have that goal, everyone fits in here.”

Likewise, success this season is important to Central junior Seamus O’Neill. But the 6-foot 3-inch, 230-pound lineman says Central players are also interested in having a competitive team in future campaigns.

There’s only one way, O’Neill says, to ensure that happens: Teach today’s underclassmen how to be effective leaders and responsible role models.

The same message is being spread throughout the city.

“I already told everyone there’s no fooling around on this team anymore,” said West senior co-captain Stephen Gibson, a 5-foot 6-inch, 185-pound middle linebacker and fullback. “No one gets singled out. It just doesn’t work like that. That can ruin the season — and this is our year to win states.”

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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