Technique or torture?

Morgan Taylor, Staff Writer

September 22, 2017

     Consent, as defined by Oxford’s dictionary, means “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something,” and has to be given for any physical interaction, whether platonically, sexually, or medically related.

     For example, in June 2017, while attending a summer cheerleading camp at East High School in Denver, Colorado, 13-year-old Ally Wakefield was forced into a splits position by her coach, Ozell Williams, ripping tissues in her legs and pulling her hamstring.

     Ally Wakefield was not the only victim of the painful method. In the horrifying videos taken by fellow cheerleaders at the camp, several girls are seen being forced and held into a splits position. Ally is currently undergoing physical therapy in order to rectify the extensive damage that her muscles endured, and the situation is being looked into as child abuse.

     Ally Wakefield’s coach, Ozell Williams, is based in Boulder, Colorado, and has been tumbling for years. When asked about his controversial method, Williams said, “It’s a technique that I learned from my childhood.” How has his “technique” not been questioned or investigated before, if it is something that he has utilized in the past?

     During the awful video that surfaced of Ally Wakefield being forced into the splits position, she repeatedly screams “Stop!” In fact, she yells “stop” nine times in a less than thirty second video. Why didn’t Coach Williams cease his actions?

     When Ally Wakefield pleaded, in agony, for her coach to stop hurting her, he should have stopped. Immediately, and without question. By forcing her to do something against her will, he disregarded her right to give consent to any activity.

     Recently, Ally’s mother, Kirsten Wakefield said, “These girls are 13 to 17 and this is a crucial developmental stage for them. What kind of message are we sending if we tell them it is all right for an adult to abuse you while you’re screaming ‘no, stop,’ and not be able to do anything about it or speak up and not have any resource? (”

     Kirsten Wakefield sent emails to the school, with proof of what he was doing, but received no indication that some action would be taken to stop the forced exercises. It was only when the video went viral that school administrators and Ozell Williams were placed on leave.

     In this day and age, sports are becoming increasingly prominent in high school culture and life- but students should not be forced into doing something they do not want to, whether it be by coaches or parents.

     Ally Wakefield was physically forced into the splits by a coach, but parents can mandate their children to play sports too, even if that child is completely against it. Consent doesn’t  stop at physical interactions, people can be coerced into events mentally or emotionally as well.

     Before any teenager is allowed to participate in a sport in high school, he or she and their parent (because they’re under 18) have to give permission. If someone was to be hurt while participating in a school sanctioned activity, and they didn’t have a consent form, it might seem that the student was being forced into an activity by coaches or teachers.

     The student’s voluntary will to take part in any activity, like sports, also matters. If participating in sports fundamentally goes against a person’s moral code or independent personal choice, and their parents are forcing them into it, then their consent has been disregarded.

     Sometimes parents can force their kids to participate in sports at school, despite insistence from their kids that they don’t like them. Sports take up a large amount of time, and it’s understandable that a student doesn’t want to have to balance academics with athletics.

     Although they are extremely significant in a teenager’s life, parents don’t and shouldn’t have the right to dictate what their kids should be doing in their free time, especially since said parent isn’t the one having to balance sports and school.

     This type of consent, called informed consent, requires a person to be in the right state of mind to make decisions. They must have the mental capacity and clarity to make a decision. For example, if a player was injured during a football game and suffered from a concussion, they cannot legally give their consent.

     Coaches have to recognize the signs that they have pushed too far, and are hurting their players, emotionally or physically, whether or not they intended it. Sports has a delicate balance between good pain, and sharp, intense, “something’s wrong” kind of pain. Coach Ozell Williams pushed much too far, much too fast and didn’t listen to his students.

     Experiences like that cause not just physical, but emotional trauma. Ally Wakefield says that she’d never want to go back into cheerleading. And that is completely her coach’s fault.

     The right to consent is violated when a person feels that their fundamental beliefs and morality are being trespassed upon, when they clearly say “no” or “stop” and when they aren’t in the right state of mind to make a decision. Coach Williams didn’t acknowledge Ally Wakefield, and look what happened. Ally is in physical therapy, and his career is over.

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