Coaching For Change: Promoting safe, healthy, and equitable relationships
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Coaching For Change: Promoting safe, healthy, and equitable relationships

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 “We teach players that honor and respect are keys to a team playing the game.  How can we not teach them that honor and respect are even more important in their lives?”

Tubby Smith, Coaching Boys into Men Playbook

 

Coaches have an unprecedented platform to promote individual well-being and healthy relationships.  As many coaches know, championship teams are built on strong relationships between coaches, players, and support staff to help individuals and the team fulfill their potential.  But helping players build healthy relationships on their teams, and in their lives, can be challenging.  In sports, as in the rest of society, unhealthy relationship dynamics are common, and issues of intimate partner violence can occur all too often. Sexual and domestic violence are difficult topics for any of us to discuss, but coaches have extra incentive.  In addition to the impact on individual lives, instances of violence are common threats to any athletic team.  These issues can cause players at high school, college and professional levels to become ineligible to play.  The team can be distracted by negative media attention. And players are preoccupied when they are involved in unhealthy interactions and relationships.

Just how common are sexual assault and domestic violence?

  • Nearly one in four (23.7%) of female students at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities report experiencing a sexual assault within their lifetime. Boynton Health Services 2010
  • Approximately 1 in 3 Minnesota women have been victims of sexual and domestic violence, respectively. Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, 2010

The question is:  Are healthy relationships a fundamental component of athletic success?  Can athletics play a role in preventing sexual and domestic violence? Is sports a vehicle for leadership and social norms change around these issues?  The answer is yes…and doing so will strengthen the individual, the team, and the culture.

Understanding and developing the comfort level to discuss healthy relationships and address domestic and sexual violence head-on can be key to assuring a student athlete’s success, on the team and in life.  A student is better prepared for the challenges they may face when they can identify and counteract harmful social messages and situations that promote violence. When coaches and athletes are empowered to take a leadership position to promote safe, healthy, and equitable relationships, they can prevent issues from becoming distractions for players or developing into full-blown problems which undermine team goals and objectives.

A group of state and local violence prevention experts is working to support coaches and athletes, using nationwide best practices, to enhance their leadership capabilities and expand their influence on campuses and in the community. This project proposes a partnership with motivated athletic departments, coaches and athletes by offering a comprehensive plan which equips coaches and their athletes with tools to address these difficult issues. The shared goal is to foster coaches’ knowledge in this area and players’ life skills to ensure success, in the next season and throughout their lives.

The initiative is bigger than just the athletic department. By virtue of the role sports plays in our culture and the capacity it has to contribute to social change (Think Jackie Robinson!), social norms can be impacted by leadership through sports. The effort invested will help build athletic programs and athletes into the best they can be. They will be citizens with a heightened ability to build honor and respect into their relationships for the rest of their lives. And small boys and girls will see that respect as they look to these athletes as role models and mentors. And in this process, lasting change can happen.

ns that promote violence. When coaches and athletes are empowered to take a leadership position to promote safe, healthy, and equitable relationships, they can prevent issues from becoming distractions for players or developing into full-blown problems which undermine team goals and objectives.

A group of state and local violence prevention experts is working to support coaches and athletes, using nationwide best practices, to enhance their leadership capabilities and expand their influence on campuses and in the community. This project proposes a partnership with motivated athletic departments, coaches and athletes by offering a comprehensive plan which equips coaches and their athletes with tools to address these difficult issues. The shared goal is to foster coaches’ knowledge in this area and players’ life skills to ensure success, in the next season and throughout their lives.

The initiative is bigger than just the athletic department. By virtue of the role sports plays in our culture and the capacity it has to contribute to social change (Think Jackie Robinson!), social norms can be impacted by leadership through sports. The effort invested will help build athletic programs and athletes into the best they can be. They will be citizens with a heightened ability to build honor and respect into their relationships for the rest of their lives. And small boys and girls will see that respect as they look to these athletes as role models and mentors. And in this process, lasting change can happen.

 

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