What happened that first day at Gilman [High School] was entirely unlike anything normally associated with high school football. It started with the signature exchange of the Gilman football program -- this time between [head coach] Biff [Poggi] and the gathered throng of eighty boys, freshmen through seniors, who would spend the next week practicing together before being split into varsity and junior varsity teams.
"What is our job?" Biff asked on behalf of himself, Joe, and the eight other assistant coaches.
"To love us," most of the boys yelled back. The older boys had already been through this routine more than enough times to know the proper answer. The younger boys, new to Gilman football, would soon catch on.
"And what is your job?" Biff shot back.
"To love each other," the boys responded.
I would quickly come to realize that this standard exchange -- always initiated by Biff or [defensive coach] Joe [Ehrmann] -- was just as much a part of Gilman football as running or tackling.
"I don"t care if you're big or small, huge muscles or no muscles, never even played football or star of the team -- I don"t care about any of that stuff," Biff went on to tell the boys, who sat in the grass while he spoke. "If you're here, then you're one of us, and we love you. Simple as that." ...
"I expect greatness out of you," Biff once told the boys. "And the way we measure greatness is the impact you make on other people"s lives."
How would the boys make the most impact? Almost anything Biff ever talked about could be fashioned into at least a partial answer to that question.
For one thing, they would make an impact by being inclusive rather than exclusive. [emphasis mine]
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Shouldn't that be the goal? Rather than cliques and the in-crowd and the out-crowd, having ONE GROUP, among whose primary goals is SUPPORTING EACH OTHER. If the Gilman High School football coaches could do this with their football team, why couldn't the entire high school do the precise same thing with the entire student population?
THIS is how you beat bullying, people: by culturing a climate of inclusion, where NO ONE is left out, no one is isolated or ostracized and where EVERYONE can feel AT HOME.