Athletes are over-represented in a number of categories of school crime and violence–in particular, dating/domestic violence and sexual assault. Yet many school and college athletic departments have developed or implemented programs designed to educate students on various types of crime and violence and to help athletes make healthy and safe choices. Additionally, most major sporting leagues have developed some type of program devoted to violence prevention.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers numerous resources to assist teams in understanding and preventing hazing. It also makes available a list of speakers who can make presentations focusing on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; gambling; sexual assault prevention; and stress management and mental health promotion. Many colleges hire professional speakers to address their athletes and sometimes other groups about specific topics. For example, Mike Domitrz is a speaker whose program “Can I Kiss You?” focuses on healthy relationships. Rape 101: Sexual Assault Prevention for College Athletes is a program designed for college football teams.
Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) is one of the most well-known violence prevention programs. MVP is housed at Northeastern University’s Center for Sport in Society. It was designed by feminist scholar Jackson Katz to teach student-athletes and student-leaders how to become involved in ending what have often been called “women’s issues”–rape, battering, and sexual harassment. The idea is that men and women can both be involved, and that student-athletes and members of other student organizations can take the lead in doing so. MVP trainers are former professional and college athletes.
Instead of assuming that student-athletes and student-leaders are would-be victims or perpetrators, MVP utilizes a bystander approach. These bystanders are then empowered to intervene in safe but helpful ways when they witness abuse and assault. This emphasis is intended to reduce the defensiveness men often feel and the helplessness women often feel when discussing issues of men’s violence against women. An independent evaluation that spanned multiple years and utilized mixed messages has found that MVP produces significant changes in regard to students’ knowledge about gender violence.
Project Teamwork (PTW) is another program housed at Northeastern University’s Center for Sport in Society. PTW was created in 1990 and funded by a three-year grant from Reebok. This six-hour diversity awareness and conflict resolution program is facilitated by former collegiate student-athletes. Multiracial, mixed-gender teams work with middle and high school students to teach them about issues of inequality and discrimination and to provide practical conflict resolution skills. The goal is to empower young people to make positive changes in society.
After completing the six-week PTW curriculum, students form Human Rights Squads. These groups then work together to promote social justice issues in their schools and communities. Once a year, all of the Squads throughout Massachusetts gather at Northeastern University to celebrate their successes.
Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM) is a program designed to help coaches talk to their athletes about respect, integrity, and nonviolence. It is promoted by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and has been adopted by school and youth groups throughout the country.
The National Football League (NFL) has two programs that are designed to help reduce youth violence. NFL Youth Education Towns (YETs) are constructed in Super Bowl host cities. These education and recreational facilities are intended to outlive the actual event and create a positive impact in their communities. The NFL donates $1 million toward YET development during each Super Bowl, focusing on an underserved area of the host city. The Super Bowl host committee finds funds from community groups and corporations to match the NFL’s investment, and the NFL requires each host city to establish a 10-year operating and fund-raising plan so that the YETs are a long-term investment. If the Super Bowl is hosted in a city that already has a YET center, the NFL donates the $1 million contribution to that existing center.
Currently, there are 15 YETs in 12 cities: Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston (2), Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego (2), Tampa (2), and Hawaii. While all of the YET facilities vary to some degree, each provides educational programs, access to physical fitness and personal development programs, recreation opportunities, technology, and many other resources. Further, the NFL partners with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA) to ensure that all centers offer programs and services that effectively meet the needs of youth in the areas of education, technical training, life-skills development, and recreation.
Additionally, the NFL, working with Scholastic, Inc., has created an educational curriculum called One World that emphasizes diversity and acceptance. The 10-week program was created after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It addresses stereotyping, bigotry, bullying, and racism and can be used in classrooms or afterschool programs.
Major League Baseball (MLB) began a relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1997. B&GCA is a national network of more than 3,700 neighborhood-based facilities annually serving 4.4 million young people, primarily from disadvantaged circumstances, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands plus domestic and international military bases. Its programs emphasize educational achievement, career exploration, drug and alcohol avoidance, health and fitness, gang and violence prevention, cultural enrichment, leadership development, and community service. Since 1997, MLB and B&GCA have worked together to establish more than 1,000 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Leagues, which can assist urban youth in resisting crime and violence by offering another prosocial choice. The collaboration has also promoted B&GCA though print, radio, and television public service advertising campaigns. Individual teams and players also work with their local Boys & Girls Clubs to assist young people.
- Can I Kiss You?: http://www.datesafeproject.org/can-i-kiss-you-programs-presentations/
- Mentors in Violence Prevention: http://www.mvpnational.org/
- The Program: Coaching Boys Into Men. http://www.coachescorner.org/index.asp?page=2
- Project Teamwork: http://www.northeastern.edu/sportinsociety/leadership-education/project-teamwork/what-is-project-teamwork/