“Rape” as a football drill command. We should know better.

“Rape” as a football drill command. We should know better.

Dear Brenda,

My son is 15 years old and during his football practice at our public high school the coach uses the word ”rape” as a command for a drill. The boys will then attack and tackle each other.

I think this is very unhealthy and that it promotes violence and aggression. This is 2011 and we should know better. The principal thinks that it’s fine.


Dear Concerned Mom,

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing ?all of the time on a woman’s hunched back. – Marge Piercy

For a coach to use the word “rape” as a command for a drill in which the young men attack and tackle each other is unacceptable. Not because I think the members of the football team are mindless jocks who will have a Pavlovian response whenever the word is mentioned outside of football practice. It’s because as the Coach conditions their minds and bodies for a game of football, he is also desensitizing these young men to weight this word carries. Rape is an aggressive and violent act. Obviously the Coach is trying to generate a certain level of aggression he believes is necessary to play the game, however, while doing so he is creating an equivalency in their minds that is inappropriate and completely unacceptable.

The principal’s reaction was dismissive. Perhaps he or she is reluctant to address the issue in an honest and forthcoming way because they’re more interested in winning football games. Perhaps he or she is more interested in winning than in using their influence and the influence of the Coach to send a clear message about language, power and sex. The Coach and the Principal have missed a teachable moment and these young men lose because they don’t receive a mature message about the power of language. This happens too often. Adults rationalize unsuitable behaviors, language or treatment of certain groups and the most impressionable members of our society walk away from experiences like this with a certain coarseness, a lack of sensitivity. And while the rates of juvenile sex offenses continue to increase, this Coach and Principal believe that it is okay to not address this seriously.

So what’s a Mom to do? Here’s the deal:

  • You are your son’s first role model. Talk to him and tell him exactly how you feel about the Coach using such a loaded word in such a cavalier fashion.
  • Tell your son that you are going to take action because you believe it’s wrong. If your son balks at the idea of you taking action, let him know there are other places and leagues he can get his football fix and that this is something you strongly believe in and this is what people do when it is something they believe in, they take a stand.
  • Write a letter outlining your concerns and your demands to the school superintendent, and then copy to the members of the school board, the PTA, the school principal and coach, the executive director and the communications director of the local rape crisis center and the local newspaper.
  • Request to speak at the next school board meeting. Read your letter. Demand a response.

Good luck.

– Brenda


31 Responses to ““Rape” as a football drill command. We should know better.”
  1. Kimberly says:

    This is incredibly insensitive and barbaric. However, it does not surprise me. Many high school sports coaches are ignorant and have not been properly trained to lead young men and women. As parents, we must be good role models to our children and demand that their teachers and coaches “Know Better”!

  2. Nora says:

    Insensitive…doesn’t even begin to describe the way the Coach is behaving…

  3. Alexa says:

    What is so shocking to me is that the principal dismissed it as okay…okay my foot! My son would be out of that school in a heartbeat!

  4. lucia says:

    WHAT is wrong with society?!!!! come on people! We cannot think this is acceptable and worst we can not keep quiet!

  5. Jonathan says:

    I don’t know much about football, I grew up liking soccer better but I cannot imagine anyone using the word Rape as a drill, what is that coach thinking? Seriously! What kind of values are we teaching this kids. Why does this type of things only seem to happen in America?

  6. Esther says:

    Is this true? If so how could this be permitted by the school principal? Please someone EXPLAIN!

  7. Aunt B says:

    Perhaps the principal is someone that doesn’t understand the power of language and the impressionable age of the players. I don’t think these young men will go and rape on command, but I do think this type of cavalier attitude creates an insensitivity that we can do without.

  8. Brad says:

    I’ve worked in sexual violence prevention for over a decade. This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to bang my head into a wall repeatedly. The coach clearly doesn’t think rape is a serious matter, because he’s equating the act of taking away another person’s sexual autonomy / bodily integrity with ability to best your opponent IN A GAME. Whether he would admit it or not, he’s sending that same message to the kids by using this coaching strategy (and I use that term loosely here). It tells these young men that rape is on par with making an aggressive tackle – it’s a way to prove your manhood and shows your ability to dominate another person. And it conveys the message that both of those behaviors are very desirable – especially since he’s repeatedly commanding them to do it!

    I think your advice to this parent was spot on. Great job with a tough situation.

  9. Chance says:

    If your child is 15, using “rape” is probably in his lexicon already. It is common parlance among gamers, both male and female, and means “utterly destroy,” particularly in the context of team or PVP (Player versus Player) activities. It has little to do with the brutal reality of sexual aggression that defines rape in the clinical sense. Communicating in a living language means that a word’s denotation can be context driven when groups of people recognize different meanings for that word from one situation to the next. Just as “gay” means something completely different between the contexts of emotion (happiness) and sexuality (homosexuality), “rape” has acquired a new, and very common, denotation between gamers of all ages (to completely destroy, not just merely defeat an opponent). It may not be pretty, or good, or sensitive, but it’s here and it’s already a strong part of the living language most MMO and FPS gamers share. With the expansion of the internet and massive success of online gaming, this means the term is already poised to move past the stage of mere colloquialism. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it seem somewhat futile to attack an adult for using language that was probably passed down to him from children, not the other way around, in an effort to stop the language from being used.

    That said, it’s obviously important to make sure your child knows the difference between the usage of the word between a gaming context and a real life context.

    See definition 2 for exemplification:

  10. David says:

    What is the name of this school ? Where is it located ? What are the names of the Principal and Coach ?
    Video tape the Football team either at a game or practice. Submit it to your city council, Your Church, And a pack of CD Rewrite CD’s don’t cost much. download the video to CD and pass them out to the other Parent’s in the morning when kids are being dropped of at school. I’m without doubt that there are far more uninformed then informed Parent’s on this issue. Once this reaches enough ears and/or the right ear, this child abuse ” WILL” cease ! Rule #1; “Within there Power” A Parent “MUST” Do what ever it takes to protect their children / child from harm. Be it Physical or Mental. “It’s our responsibility” !
    But Please, post the location and names. Schools have web sites. I would love to leave a message !

  11. Zack says:

    I agree with Chance. I play videogames online and offline, and when I or my team wins we usually say we “raped” the other team. It does’t mean that we sexually abuse people or believe the sexual abuse of others is fine. The coach shouldn’t be punished for something he is not intetionally doing. Sure he is using the word rape for a drill, but he more than likely learned the denotative definition known to most teenagers (demolish an oppenet).

    Brenda does however have a point and knowing how some knuckleheads can be, she should go to the school board and all, but she should just ask that the drill name be changed from rape to something else. For example my old coaches when I was in middleschool called it” blood alley” becauseit was so aggressive that people would end up bleeding from time to time.

  12. Nick says:

    I am 17 years old and I am on the school football team. I completly agree with chance and zach, football requires a level of intensity that some people are not mentally able to keep up with. The worst thing that I can imagine happen to the sport would be for it to become politicaly correct, and in turn become soft. I agree that sexual assualt is a horrible thing and that it is an unforgivable act, but in the sense of being competitive, the meaning is completely unrelated. To try to punish the coach for using this abundantly common term would not only rob the team of a support figure, but would be a brash insult to all the players who sweat and bleed on a daily basis. Football is the most violent and agressive sport. I say that with pride. High school coaches dedicate an unbelievable amount of time and effort into guiding and leading their players to victory, not just on the field but also in life. That coach should not even be considered for punishemt, david. He no doubt learned the term from his players. There is no one to blame, because this is not a problem. This is the evolution and the adaptation of

  13. Nick says:

    A modern language for a new generation. There is no reason to be alarmed, because no player will hear the coach say rape and immediatly act on the literal definition. Concerned mother, I think you owe the coach an appology, along with the rest of the team of which you have insulted in the process.

  14. Alexa says:

    As language evolves different words take on new meanings. In my generation it is common practice to use rape in this context. It means utterly destroy or annihilate.

  15. Anne says:

    Anyone who has ever been raped would take offense to that comment. So boys who have no sense of the real use of the word and use the excuse of it being a common term for the “youth” of today, WAKE UP!
    This is a term that should never be used in any other context than what it is…a barbaric act.
    Rape should have no other meaning. It is demeaning and insensitive to say the least. From one who was raped at 17 I find your ignorance and excuses idiotic. I wonder if a female relative in your family was raped if you would still feel the same way about the way the word is being used by this coach and you gamers and who ever else tries to justify this term in any other way.
    Better yet, God forbid it happens to you. Many men are raped and not just in prison boys. However that is the most under reported crime, rape.
    Try justifying something else.

  16. Logan says:

    Oh my goodness people, the term “raped” when used in a sense like that is nothing to raise any questions about. People use the term a lot to mean ‘beaten badly’ whether it be a game that your playing on the field or online. People use the word “gay” to mean things are bad and not fun. You people just need to get off your high horse and understand that we live in a time where someone is going to say something that might offend you, big deal, grow up folks. It’s 2011.

  17. Andrew says:

    You young gamers and I say “young” because you are not privy to how that term got started in gaming.

    The term relates to barbaric times when “rape and pillage” was the norm after one tribe concord another. Not in gaming, in real life. The victor “raped” the woman, killed or enslaved the men and “pillaged” everything they could. This then became the norm used in gaming because many of the original games were set in medieval times (like D&D – I’m letting you know how old I am by saying this) and it was used as such in the games. It was meant you were going to “rape and pillage” a village or castle you just concord. This was not acted out but everyone knew what it meant.

    Now you are saying it means to “utterly destroy” someone. Think about it for a minute. When you “rape and pillage” you are “utterly destroying” them. You take everything from them including their self-esteem along with their ability to make choices about their body. Just because you as a gamer don’t make the connection to the actual act of rape does not mean the connotation changed. Just because you as a gamer don’t understand the full meaning of the word doesn’t mean the meaning changed.

    And yes like someone said above, context does matter, however if it is to educate about rape like talking about it and it’s effects etc. This context and using the word in it is very different than “utterly destroying” (i.e. raping) someone. Saying you will “rape and pillage” in gaming with role play games that are not acted out, is also very different from teaching children to carry out a violent act in football that is actually very close to the act of rape. Why do you think you have so many sports figures in the news for this very act? They probably had a coach like this guy who desensitized them to the violence that they are carrying out. It really is Neanderthal thinking.

    Also, justifying using the term doesn’t cut it when it comes to violent acts. You miss the point; Rape is an act of violence. Not sex. And this coach is desensitizing the team to the importance and weight that this word has when he has a violent act carried out based on his command to “rape” the other players.

    By the way, if you keep reading the definitions of rape from the above recommended site you will come across the one I listed here. I think it’s very fitting with what the so called coach has in mind and does not belong in the education system.

    To utterly defile and victimized person of either sex. Can occur at any age, by anyone to anyone. It is not a joke. It is the subject of many UD submissions, but should not constitute as a form of entertainment, nor amusement. This terrible act ruins a person on many levels for the rest of their life. It is considered a great subject of high school and pre-adolescent males and females alike. However, should they grow up and consider the feelings of those survivors of said act they would come to realize how heady this particular subject truly is.

  18. Cody says:

    Get off of your proverbial high horses. Is this a little “abrasive”? Of course. Could there be another term used for the drill? Absolutely. Is this really just the banter of young men and has no deviant connotations to their morale fiber?…. I would have to say so.

    This is just the talk of a bunch of immature kids and a coach who grew up with it. No one calls out “smear the queer”, no one is against the trash talking that occurs at every sporting event these kids attend (which involves parents)… Everyone is allowed to bump a little elbows but the first sign of a possibly anti-feminist comment and it’s suddenly ungodly? So you can all yell at the players and coaches because they are part of a sporting event and they are allowed to get in the other teams heads and hit ’em around but the moment one word is used that might hint at sexism the world burns? Grow up. Not everyone is going to watch their step around every self-righteous mom with an opinion.

    You want to teach good morals? Be a good parent. I grew up being trash-talked, teased, beat-up… and you know what? I’m damn glad I did it. A 15 year-old knows the difference between an off-colored joke and the implications of a sexual assault on young women… get over yourselves. Do us all a favor and stay off the blogs every time your son acts a little bad, it’s called growing up, try it some time.

  19. Oriana says:

    @Cody, @Logan, @Nick, @Zack…

    You’re all missing the point. Yes, the word has changed meaning SLIGHTLY. But you’re missing the point of the outrage.

    The coach is still desensitizing these young men to the word “rape”. He is actively participating in the the changing of that meaning until now it can be said without anyone wincing… especially the young men on his team. They can toss it around like a casual word, a joke…

    It’s not a joke. This word NEEDS to retain it’s shock value, because we need to give a visceral jolt to people when we say that word. We need to remind them every time it’s said that this is a crime. A horror. An act of utter defilement. When you feel that jolt, you want to do something about it… make it stop. That’s what you should feel about a crime! When you desensitize people to the word, they no longer feel the heart-pounding jolt. Like the word “murder”. Does your heart thump hard when you hear it? I’d bet not… despite the fact that the word describes an act that is abhorrent in the extreme. Because you hear it used it gamer terms… because you hear it used it other ways that don’t include the crime of murder… you are apathetic to the meaning. THIS is what is wrong with what the coach is doing. This man has WILLINGLY chosen to participate in creating apathy.

    This is not about being PC. This is not about changing the brutality of football or making it flowery or hippy-ish or whatever nonsense that you think this is about. This is about the power of words and the power to create apathy in people who really, REALLY should not be taught apathy!

    At the age these boys are at, their parents no longer have direct influence. Check any parenting book… check any behavioral science book… parents no longer are the ‘demi-gods’ they were when the child was young. Instead, the influence moves to their peers and their respected teachers… in other words, this coach can DIRECTLY INFLUENCE when a parent CANNOT. They can, in some instances, erase whatever good parenting was done. That’s why it’s important for this mom to correct the coach’s behavior. Not punish… but correct. He needs to be aware of the effect his choices have on his young team members. There’s a reason so many sports players are in the news for rape… and it’s NOT just women wanting to cash in!

    This sounds like a mom wanting things to be PC but it’s not. It’s far deeper than that and should not be so callously, so heartlessly, so arrogantly dismissed. Stop contributing to apathy. Take a stand!

  20. Youngster says:

    Honestly I believe you take this too far. Perhaps it isn’t what you see as right but don’t blame the coaches ad schools for desensitization. It all links back to the parenting. He can’t transfer to another schools football team for his “fix” and thanks for making us logical young teens look like a bunch of drugged up foul mouthed rapists.
    By the way rape is a word with a definition of more than sexual assault, and them tackling each other to that word doesn’t necessarily mean it’s implied that way.
    This article truly filled me with disgust in parents who think they have to control every little thing. Don’t write the letters and start a bunch of problems, just suck it up. I’m against rape too but really? Of you’re going to take words from our mouths and rights away why not just Nerf the World already.

  21. Renee says:

    Hello? Is anyone’s brain functioning properly? Just because the meaning of the word has “changed”, doesn’t mean it’s changed in a good way. The word is abusive and the fact that you are defending it tells me you don’t get it. Just because you are desensitized to it as young men, doesn’t mean that it is ok. It’s the old adage, if all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you follow them? True men would not be using this word, even if their coach and friends did. They would stand up and be a man, and tell others that it’s wrong. They would have integrity and compassion for their fellow human beings and not promote nor defend such ridiculous and juvenile behavior. There are dictionaries and thesauruses available, thousands of words in the English language, and this coach decided to use one that signifies violence against another human to rile the boys up? Give me a break, how dumb. And this isn’t about making football politically correct, I don’t like that crap either. But I at least have a sense of right and wrong and if you don’t see this as wrong, then you are missing the big picture.

    You can justify just about anything, if you really try, and that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. What about integrity guys? What do you think your mother’s would say if you used that term in front of them. What if they were raped, what if your girlfriend was raped? Would you think it’s ok then? We don’t say the “N” word when pertaining to African American people, even though it was used a long time ago. It’s derogatory and just plain wrong. It’s ignorant!

    I sure hope you get your heads on straight so you don’t grow up to be an insensitive, barbaric idiots that have no integrity or capacity for compassion. I can’t imagine someday trying to explain to my Maker why I thought using that word so lightly was a good idea. 🙁

  22. This “Rapex” is fascinating, but what about a young or older woman has had her heart broken by a guy, and she inserts the “Rapex” after enticing her ex boyfriend or ex husband into one more sexual encounter for “old times sake” and then when this unusual condom attacks him, and she sits there laughing as he has to make a quick trip to the Emergency Room to have it removed, only he didn’t rape her. This thing is brings true meaning to the double edge sword.

    I think any Coach who tells his team to go out and rape as a word to get them to push harder on each other during practice, needs to have someone put this thing on him and perhaps he would soon learn to use a dufferent word, other than rape, to get his team more in the mood to work harder.

  23. Shocked says:

    Man you can sure tell the difference betweent how the men and women think! Dont’ forget, a human’s brain does not completely finish growing until around the age of 21. If these boys and men were raped themselves, they might see the point. Many words have changed in their meaning over the years, like it was already stated not in a good way always. It is easy to say things and say how you feel about something, but if the situation actually happens to you most of the time people will change their tune. Lots of good points were made but males listen to the females, they mature faster than you, and since they endure the horror of rape more than males i think they know a thing or two.

  24. Mamaof3 says:

    To the young men that are complaining about football going soft and that saying that the coach isn’t responsible… Football is a GAME, right? Not a lifestyle or sexual preference, etc. Most of you won’t even be playing anymore after you graduate, so what POSSIBLE good comes from referring to attacking on the football field as rape? Annihilate or dominate works just as well, and it is ALL-encompassing. At your young ages, you do not yet understand the implications and long term effects of words and the harm they can do. Obviously your coach has taught you that you have some sort of entitlement because you have the mental capacity to be a part of your team, as if that makes you better than the average teenager… But, in reality, it’s simply an extracurricular activity that you happen to be good at. You are no more mentally capable than someone in the marching band or track team. Figure that out before you get out into the world and you will be much better off! Also, you say you are against rape? Maybe so, but since you have limited life experience, you have NO idea what the word truly means. There are too many cases of rape to be using this word so nonchalantly… Until someone you know and love, or (heaven forbid!) you experience rape up close and personal, you will not understand what its true implications are. Your coach has an OBLIGATION and RESPONSIBILITY as an adult and as your mentor to educate you, not cater to what YOU think is “cool”! And as for Nick, you owe every rape victim an apology for belittling their pain and suffering. Apologize to the coach and the team? When you grow up, you will see how RIDICULOUS what you just said truly is! If I was YOUR mother and this was YOUR coach, he would never want to use that word again because I would impress upon him, the school board, the other parents, and possibly my lawyer, the importance of his role as a mentor to the fine young men in his team… Perhaps he could use a vacation from coaching? Or a cut in pay? Or, perhaps a new career? Maybe then he could say that he’d been raped, in a way, couldn’t he?

  25. Mamaof3 says:

    CODY, as a PARENT, I have gone to GREAT lengths to teach my children to respect themselves AND others. Kids will never be perfect, I do NOT expect that. But I can tell you that my teenaged son was HORRIFIED when I let him read this story, and he agreed with my posting back. I don’t get offended by most comments, and I also don’t talk trash about other players at my childrens’ competitions… Sports are supposed to teach teamwork, dedication, diligence, perseverance, how to take direction, and GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP. I would feel the need to take issue with this particular coach because he seems to be ignorant and lacking in the abilities and personality traits that the young men on his team need to pattern after. As for GROWING UP, part of being a grown up is acting accordingly and having some values if you are going to be a role model for young, impressionable people. Obviously, you haven’t completely grown up yet because you seemed to have missed this point. Maybe you should take your own advice…

  26. Jem says:

    calm down, he obviously doesn’t mean it seriously its just a way of saying “lets win!” you guys make it such a big deal..

  27. Agnostica says:

    The excuses being made for this word being used by so many commentators is further evidence of the downfall of society. When violence and rape are glorified or dismissed as not being a big deal and empathy is loss, it is a sign of the coming collapse of morality and humanity. Anyone with common sense would realize that the amount of rapes in our society is so high that someone who was personally affected by rape is bound to hear this coach screaming this and bound to have the memories come back to them. Many people that are raped experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Simply hearing this word and especially it being used as a command for a group of males to do it, would certainly trigger vivid memories of that rape for that person.

    People have no common sense or decency anymore and it’s quite sad.

  28. Lea says:

    The term “rape” is being used by the young generation to describe “beating someone big time” or basically “take all the other teams’ chance of winning away.” this is absolutely disguting. It is desensitizing our young men of the seriousness of rape. This coach and his principal should be fired. Is it a public school ? Go to tour local media, speak with your mayor and local politicians. Take a stand, I would pull my kid from that team faster than the coach could spill his disgusting commands from that whole in his face. No respect. Really ? Grown men think this is ok ?

  29. Changed says:

    I didn’t even make it to my teens before I was raped. I went through years of therapy and then went on to help children/teens who had been raped. To be against the word “rape” being used as a way to inspire a player to be better at the game is not being politically correct and it doesn’t have anything to do with anti-feminism. Those of you who think other wise are just thankfully unaware of just how bad rape is!

    I’ve listened to both male and female rape victims talk about their pain and horror. Many of the guys said that they had always thought of rape as a violent sexual act until it happened to them, but they now thought of it not as a sexual act but as one of the most violent acts that can be committed against a person! They ALL of their own accord used the word “rape” to label the violence.

    Occasionally, I worked with teens who had committed rape. Some had been raped themselves when younger, but most were people who had grown up desensitized by violence and were filled with aggression. I was told more than once that the rape wasn’t about sex but about power, domination, and an outlet for the aggression inside of them.

    Those of you that say that rape is a gaming term and that the parents should back off….I know some young girls and guys (some of whom are gamers) who disagree! Some probably would’ve agreed with you before the rape but now they know what thankfully you don’t. Please realize that it’s easy to tell people to back off this topic when you don’t know what it means to those of us who have been raped. I hope rape never touches you or anyone you know.

  30. Tina says:

    This is so like a guy. how can anyone use the term rape so lightly Take it from someone that’s been there the word strikes fear in Alot of people it should never ever be used like this especially to teens they are so easily influenced and to think this principle needs to be evaluated because how are you going to let one of your staff talk like this.


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