Yes, this is Hazing.
To the outside observer, the fall of the Adelaide Crows AFL football team over the past few years has been steep, incomprehensible even, with each passing season seemingly tougher than the last. How can a team go so swiftly from top of the ladder, and a spot in the 2017 Grand Final, to the bottom of the pile in 2020?
There are many arguments as to cause and effect, and this article is not attempting to lay blame on any single issue (of which there are many). However, as more details of a disastrous 2018 pre-season camp recently emerge, it's clear the effects of the use of a corporate "mind performance company" were more severe and long-lastings than admitted.
Crows players had already been through a lot in the years leading up to their 2017 Grand Final berth - including the horrific death of their coach Phil Walsh at the hands of his son, in July of 2015. As a young team that was already suffering emotionally through that ordeal, they rose up in 2016, and in 2017 obtained a spot in the Grand Final. They lost in the Grand Final against Richmond, 108-60, and as with any loss, it hurt. The 2018 pre-season training camps were an opportunity to regroup, retrain and return a stronger side. However, things did not go as planned.
Reports that players were blindfolded and taken by bus to undisclosed locations, tied to trees, denied showers, and more horrifying details slowly emerged. The 'mind-performance company' Collective Minds chose to use indigenous artifacts, which held important meaning to the club's indigenous players, as tools against them. There are reports that personal childhood traumas were released by training staff to the outside company and hurled against players in training. The list goes on and on, and the many reports that provide detail are referenced at the end of this article.
Yes this was sanctioned by team leadership and coaches and yes, this is hazing in its worst form.
What is hazing?
Hazing is an activity expected as a condition of joining or maintaining membership in a team, that is likely to risk or cause mental distress or harm (e.g., humiliation or intimidation), physical distress or harm (e.g., pain, injury, or illness), that does not contribute to the athlete’s positive development, is not relevant to athletic training, performance, or evaluation,
or is relevant but excessive, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.
(definition of hazing in sports, provided by HazingPrevention.Org)
The tactics used in pre-season camp fit easily within this definition. Leaders whom these young men looked up to and trusted took that trust and destroyed it in a matter of days. The head coach, the head of football, and the senior assistant have all since left the club, but the damage remains. Many players have left the club and transferred to other clubs. One indigenous player chose early retirement saying he lost passion for the game.
Hazing never works.
Hazing is about power and control and not about leadership, training or performance.
Numerous studies show that hazing DOES NOT build teams up - it tears them apart.
Hazing is abuse, plain and simple.
Here's to wishing the very best to the Adelaide Crows former, current and future players. You deserved better than this and we believe in you.
(your favourite author and proud Crows supporter, in happier times, at the start of the 2017 AFL Grand Final at the MCG, 29 Sept, 2017)
To learn more about hazing visit:
For more background on this story -