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Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing rituals, a guest post by author Eric Devine

What are you willing to do to belong to a group? That’s what hazing is, being asked to do certain things in order to be admitted into a special group of people like a team, a club, or a sorority or fraternity. Often the things people are asked to do to prove they are worthy can involve humiliating themselves, sometimes it involves hurting others. And sometimes, people die. Author Eric Devine has written a new novel, Press Play, that explores the way a school’s lacrosse team initiates its new members. As part of the promotion for the book Running Press Kids and Eric Devine are collecting initiation stories on Tumblr to raise awareness about the practice of hazing. Here’s Eric talking about it all in his own words. For more on hazing visit StopHazing.Org.

“If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that weight is hard to lose, and kids are ruthless.”
                                                                                    ––Greg from Press Play

Greg’s assessment of life comes early in a story where both his weight and the brutal nature of teen culture are center stage. And Press Play does not hold back on the difficulties the overweight protagonist faces. But the brutality is not only directed at Greg. It comes from all angles, particularly, from the beloved lacrosse team and their hazing rituals.

I have been around high school athletics for over twenty years, as an athlete, coach, and teacher. Many aspects of sport have changed, but the bedrock that has remained is the necessity of players to assimilate the culture of the team, either willingly, or through demonstrations of such loyalty.

created this Infographic about High School Hazing which you can see full size here

And yet, this need for sacrifice or to demonstrate one’s conformity, is not unique to sport. Hazing, or initiation rituals, occur within the drama clubs, marching bands, and religious youth groups. Therefore, the question becomes: how prevalent are acts of initiation within the high school culture?

I’m assuming pretty high. I believe that if students were polled about the various ways in which the have had to submit to the pressures of the group, we would be astounded with the results. I believe young adults emulate their predecessors, and to a degree, desire to exert their power and dominance as they see it done by adults. This coercion, or outright abuse of power, is the angle for my Tumblr, Initiation Secrets.

Together, my publisher (Running Press) and I have created a site for teens and adults to share anonymous stories about their initiations. The idea is to demonstrate how prevalent such acts are and to showcase the variety of areas from which they emerge.

Additionally, there are resources for teens, parents, teachers, and administrators, who recognize the “fun and games” or “traditions” are more than that, and are in fact damaging practices that have profound and long-term impacts on those who participate in them.

Please, take the time and check out the site. Share it with educators and coaches and students who you know. Share it with adults you know, who still carry the weight of what happened “back then.” This is not an echo chamber of horror stories, but rather a way to have a voice, now, when none was available previously.

About Press Play:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him

Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities. (October 28 from Running Press Kids)

About Eric Devine:

Eric Devine is a high school teacher and the author of Tap Out, Dare Me and the upcoming Press Play, all from Running Press Kids. He blogs here at Teen Librarian Occasionally and wrote a chapter in The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services, edited by myself and Heather Booth and published in July 2014 from ALA Editions.