|Kevin Siple. Via Facebook.|
As a football player in high school, college (at Georgetown College), he's been coaching and teaching for the past 29 years. He gets it. Occasionally he takes the opportunity to reach out to area coaches, via email, to get a dialogue going on a variety of different topics. Recently, he used his unique platform to talk to coaches about bullying.
"I have always been very aware of the kids in the schools where I have worked who are the "underdogs." The kids that seem to be on the outside looking in at all the social groups. It breaks my heart when I see those kids continue to be ignored day after day. As I look back all my years as a teacher, the few times I've ever really gotten upset with students is when they are intentionally trying to hurt another students feelings," said Siple.
Siple see the biggest difference between when he first started coaching and now is the immediacy and sometimes gang mentality that can occur online, where it's more difficult to police as a school. Social media bullying is defined in many high school handbooks, including in Fort Thomas Independent Schools.
"Kids act and behave the same as when I started. The difference now is that they are all so much more sophisticated and much smarter than we were. Obviously, internet has provided them with such a great vehicle for information," said Siple. "Social Media has been the big difference for me, and forcing us as educators/coaches to adjust and adapt. We always have had training rules for our athletes. Now, we have to have a social media policy and educate the kids on what's appropriate in that world."
Here is Siple's email that was sent out to coaches earlier this month:
Let me first apologize for the long email. But, I have had something on my heart for many years. Here goes.
As a long time teacher/coach, I have been thinking for several years about ways that we can impact our young people and our school community in the area of how kids are being treated in our hallways. Just like every school building in the country, we have kids at Grant County who get on the bus in the morning, go through their entire school day, get on the bus to go home, and do not experience one positive comment, smile, greeting, etc directed their way. Not only are they ignored, these kids are usually laughed at, made fun of, ridiculed, and often physically harmed day after day.
My opinion is that we as football coaches can positively change this culture. We generally deal with the largest group of athletes in our schools. Our kids are also typically the popular kids who are looked up to as well. I believe that if every building in the country had their football players trained to be compassionate and empathetic, these targeted students would be protected. I feel very strongly that students are the only ones who can change this epidemic problem in our schools. It must become "cool" to be kind to all kids and to defend the kids who are weak and can't protect themselves. I believe with the right leadership, our football programs can promote this initiative in all school communities. We have all seen far too many suicides, acts of violence, etc. in our schools due to how kids are being treated. Enough is enough!!
I have a vision of forming a committee of coaches, securing a corporate sponsor to help with resources, and setting up a program of leadership to teach our players how to "protect and serve" in our schools. We as coaches in Kentucky could really leave a legacy of advocating and promoting kindness in our schools. If this is something you have a passion for, I'd love to see where something like this could go. Please let me know your thoughts, and if you would be interested in creating something like this. I know we are "crazy busy" and adding one more thing to our plate seems impossible. But, this subject is far more important than winning football games. Let's change the culture in our student's lives. Whether we deserve it or not, we as coaches are major role models in our communities. WE can do something BIG if we put our energy into something like this.
Grant County Football
So what kind of response did Siple get from the coaches and communities he sent the email to?
"The response has been overwhelming. I just wrote an email to all the coaches in Kentucky. Since then, its taken on a life of its own. People are passionate about this topic. Its been very positive. A lot of calls and a lot of letters of support," he said.