Learn about programs that engage student-athletes in building a culture of safety and respect as part of The Friendship Center’s education services for Carroll College and local high schools.
The demand for The Friendship Center’s services is higher than ever, and we work tirelessly to meet the needs of our community. Our work with those affected by violence and abuse will always be core to our mission. However, just as important as supporting those who are fleeing violence is empowering people to prevent it.
We all have a role to play in not just addressing violence but stopping it at its roots and actively building safe and healthy communities. It’s a bold vision when you consider the saturation of violence in our culture. Nonetheless, one powerful tool we have for making that vision a reality is education.
Our team regularly presents to a variety of audiences and ages about key issues related to domestic violence and sexual assault (DVSA). Some of our core content can be adapted for any audience and some is for specific service providers who have close or frequent contact with survivors. But the majority is geared toward young people, and that’s by design.
Equipping the next generation of leaders to recognize abuse and participate in healthy relationships is one of the most effective ways to shift our culture away from one that enables and sustains DVSA. That’s why we want to highlight a few programs that our education team facilitates with a specific group of young people—student-athletes.
The direct services we provide survivors go hand-in-hand with our community education programming. While we address the immediate and long-term effects of interpersonal violence, we also empower our community to understand the culture of violence and work to change it. By working with community members and focusing on future generations to ensure that everyone has the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to form and maintain healthy relationships, we can reduce the need for our services.
As part of our education programming for high school and college communities, we facilitate Coaching Boys Into Men and Athletes as Leaders, both of which are used to engage student-athletes. The two programs work in close collaboration across the country with the key difference being that Coaching Boys Into Men is designed for young male athletes while Athletes as Leaders is a gender-inclusive program for young female-identified athletes.
This is a question that the Athletes as Leaders program answers quite effectively in their own background materials for advocates, so we’ll paraphrase them here:
Athletes have strong social networks that lend to spreading a positive message in a community. That's true of both high school and college athletes, but high school athletes are especially well-positioned to scale the impact. More than half of high-schoolers play at least one sport, rendering them a critical mass of any student body.
The team environment is conducive to redefining social norms within a larger community. If an entire team unit lives out healthy social norms, that spreads outward to their friends and family.
Because sports can reinforce harmful stereotypes—especially around masculinity—they are a critical space to start deconstructing gender stereotypes and setting a standard of respect.
Sports at every level are still very binary. Athletes are strictly categorized as male or female based on social conditioning or perception regardless of how they identify. Moreover, the large inequities in pay and visibility of professional men's and women's teams make systemic inequity legible to a larger audience. Athletes have a long history of not only calling attention to these inequities, but also inspiring others to advocate for equal pay, human rights, and inclusion.
About Coaching Boys Into Men & Athletes as Leaders
These multisession, team- and evidence-based programs leverage the influence we know athletes and teams can have by encouraging them to embrace a leadership role in creating a culture of safety and respect.
Since the sessions are facilitated with teams, these programs also engage coaches as allies in violence prevention. As nonparental adults in the lives of young people, coaches are in a unique position to be a positive influence—the value of their participation alongside athletes in these programs cannot be overstated. In fact, coaches are quite integral to the success and long-term adoption of Coaching Boys Into Men and Athletes as Leaders program objectives within a team.
Through conversations with teams about respect, accountability, consent, boundaries, equality, harmful stereotypes, and gender norms, participants are encouraged to work together to build a culture where gender-based violence and discrimination of any kind are not tolerated.
Setting a standard that rejects violence, abusive behavior, and harmful stereotypes within a team might sound like a small step, but the ripple effect can be substantial as young people take the knowledge and values instilled in them through school and sports into communities, careers, and future leadership roles.
Studies conducted on Coaching Boys Into Men participants since 2012 show evidence that the program has positive impacts on both athletes and coaches. After going through the program, past participants have been better at recognizing abuse, engaging more regularly in discussions about violence, and intervening as bystanders when they witness harmful behaviors. Consider that impact on an individual level multiplied by the number of athletes and coaches on every team, and you can start to imagine just how far-reaching these programs can be.
Friendship Center Education Services for Schools
Through our partnership with Carroll College, three teams (football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball) currently participate in Coaching Boys Into Men and Athletes as Leaders. We hope to expand that and engage more teams in the future in both the Carroll community and tri-county area high schools.
Our larger suite of education programming for Carroll students includes a DVSA basics presentation for all incoming freshmen and two special training courses—one for students acting as peer mentors in residence halls and another for nursing students. These two specialized trainings help prepare students to recognize signs of intimate partner/dating violence and abuse, understand confidentiality and safety considerations, and provide trauma-informed support to survivors.
Our presentations about healthy relationships, consent, and the culture of violence are appropriate for teens and adults. Our team is always happy to help educators meet their teaching goals around violence prevention and healthy relationships.
Cultivating a Community Free from Violence
An empowered community is one who cares about each other, offers support, intervenes in the face of violence, and challenges messages and systems that enable harm. In addition to being a resource for those affected by violence and abuse, we are committed to working with you—our community—to prevent DVSA and stalking. One way we can do that is by learning together!
If you want more information about our education services, we're here to help with resources for all ages and audiences. Whether you’re involved with a team and want to implement violence prevention curriculum for student-athletes or just part of a group that wants to know more about recognizing the signs of violence and how to support survivors, we’d love to hear from you.