The head coach of the women’s ice hockey team at Harvard is under scrutiny for running a program that mistreats players:
During the team’s annual “Initiation Week,” which concluded with “Freshmen Fun Night”, upperclassmen urged freshmen to, among other acts over the years, put condoms on bananas, fake orgasms and act out skits that referenced their sexual orientation. Some years, underaged players felt pressured to consume alcohol, some until they passed out or vomited. In some years, alumni came back to campus and participated in “Freshman Fun Night.”
Some players say they had to pay a ”gay tax” or an “Asian tax.”
Stone was allegedly an active participant in other problematic behavior. Seven players described instances from three seasons when Stone would respond to a rule infraction by leading a chant against the offending player: “I hate (player’s name)! I hate (player’s name)!” Eleven players alleged that Stone showed indifference to injuries they or others suffered. One player who suffered a head injury during a practice early in her freshman year said Stone glanced at her while she was lying on the ice and crying and barked at a trainer: “Get this kid out of here!”Hazing, Naked Skates and a ‘mental-health Hunger Games’: the dark side of Harvard women’s ice hockey – The Athletic
In addition, there were instances of racially insensitive remarks, a culture of denigration, playing favorites, and pitting players against each other in humiliating ways. Typical “tough guy” or “old school” coaching nonsense. As always, the defenders of the coach point to her winning ways and to the idea that the complaining players are just too mentally weak to succeed in sports or, in fact, in life. That her tactics creates winners on and off the ice. Except that neither argument is true.
It is true, as her defenders point out, that she is the winningest coach, in terms of raw numbers, in women’s college hockey history. That, her defenders exclaim, is that. But it’s not. She has barely been successful in the post season and has qualified for only one of the last seven NCAA tournaments. Unsurprisingly, her teams fade down the stretch. By creating an environment where one part of the team is favored over another, where one group of players snitches on the other, she destroys team chemistry in a sport where that is critical. They teams is mentally exhausted by her games by the time the end of the season rolls around and is not playing for each other.
Well, her defenders say, she produces winners at life! Look at how successful her players go on to be once they graduate. But they graduate from Harvard, into a tight-knit Harvard alumni association. More, they graduate into an even tighter-knit Harvard sporting alumni association. It is very hard to fail when you have the most powerful people in the world looking out for you. And even there, it seems that she hasn’t produced people who are strong and independent.
In one telling instance, an email chain was created by former players to discuss the ongoing news reports and investigations into the program. One woman spoke up:
One player on that chain, Vanessa McCafferty (1999-2002), responded to the group that she felt the story was balanced. She wrote:
I’m glad so many of you cherish her and felt mentored/supported but team first for me means acknowledging that for many players, it was a very different experience to varying degrees. It may not be a vendetta but just speaking the truth. I’m torn because I witnessed behavior that was abusive and also observed her being wonderful to other teammates. Favorites had a completely different experience and coach.
My conclusion is that be true to your own experience but also sensitive to all of your teammates.
A subsequent email from Lauren McAuliffe (2001-04) informed the group that McCafferty had been removed from the email chain.Hazing, Naked Skates and a ‘mental-health Hunger Games’: the dark side of Harvard women’s ice hockey – The Athletic
One woman points out the obvious: if you weren’t one of Stone’s favorites, then your experience at Harvard was different than if you were, so maybe we should stop and think for a moment about what that means about these allegations. And for expressing that bit of commonsense, they banished her from the conversation.
Does that sound like a group of tough, independent people ready to handle anything the world can throw at them? To me, that sounds like the snowiest of snowflakes. Normal snowflakes can exist in merely cold weather. These women appear to be a level of snowflake that needs temperatures approaching absolute zero to survive. I sincerely doubt that most of these women could have anything approaching success outside of the warm embrace of the Harvard alumni network.
Stone might have at one point been a good coach. But today she is just an asshole with a racket. Recruit talent based on early season success and the promise of the Harvard name and alumni association, guarantee the loyalty for life of some segment of the team by making them part of an “in crowd” so that there are always women willing to support her players when they graduate and use that support to recruit new players. Rinse and repeat. She’s less a coach than a multi-level marketing scammer.
Too many people pretend that being an ass as a coach leads to winning and/or to creating people tough enough to accept the real world as it is. That’s garbage. It doesn’t lead to winners on or off the ice — just people who cannot act as part of a team and who can only be successful as bullies or when they can be protected by bullies. We don’t put up with these assholes in the real world. I don’t understand why we pretend it’s a good idea to have them teach our kids.