The Power of Sport in Pakistan

By David S. Lee, Director of Prevention

From table tennis to cycling to soccer, I recently saw for myself the true power of sport. This month, as part of the United States-Pakistan Exchange on addressing gender-based violence through sport, I joined nine other U.S. violence prevention and sport leaders in meeting with Pakistani programs. The exchange was organized by Women Win, an international organization dedicated to girls’ and women’s empowerment through sport, and Right to Play Pakistan, with support from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. Throughout this exchange, we shared challenges, approaches, and best practices around using sport as a tool to address gender-based violence and create more gender-equitable communities.

In Pakistan, programs are working to empower women and girls by increasing opportunities for them to participate in education and sports. During the exchange, I saw powerful examples of women being empowered through sport with visits to the Diya Women’s Football Club, Pak-Shaheen Boxing Club, Asbar Welfare Foundation (which teaches table tennis to girls and young women), Early Bird Riders Sheroes Cycling Club, and Misbah’s Volleyball Academy.

I was impressed with Right to Play Pakistan’s programs that utilize sport and play to promote rights toward ending gender-based violence. The Goal Program (Girls Rights and Financial Literacy Through Sport) places young leaders in government schools to engage children and youth in regular play-based activities designed to integrate life skills such as cooperation, communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. At a Play Day in Islamabad, we joined over 100 young boys and girls from local charity schools where they sprinted, high-fived, and played “tug of peace” together under the theme of saying no to violence!

Ending gender-based violence also involves engaging men and young boys to become advocates for gender equity and promoting women’s rights. At Rozan, we met with a group of young men who have participated in Humqadam — a program that teaches men how to take action against gender-based violence.

We concluded the visit with a two-day convening on using sport to address gender-based violence, where I shared the report from RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center on how sport can be part of the solution to ending sexual violence in the United States.

Across the U.S. and internationally, sport is an influential system. It can be a powerful part of the solution to ending sexual violence, and it’s encouraging to see how various programs are using the lessons from sport to create a safer, more equitable world.

Teaming Up: Power of Sport and Public Health

By David S. Lee, Director of Prevention at RALIANCE

This week, RALIANCE attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia to share how sport is an important part of the solution to end sexual violence. In a session on Monday entitled “Sport as a platform to advance a culture of prevention,” RALIANCE’s Director of Prevention David Lee discussed the power of sport and athletics to promote well-being and advance a culture of prevention. He also highlighted the roadmap to create change from RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center.

Other session panelists included Dr. Kathleen Basile of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, who spoke about how middle school sports involvement contributes to better understanding sexual violence in high school; Jessica Wagner of the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, who spoke about the role of the NCAA in creating health promotion for college campuses; and Inside Outside Initiative’s Jody Redman, who shared her experience of reclaiming the educational purpose of high school sport for prevention.

The next day ushered in a standing-room only session entitled, “Sport as a platform to advance a culture of health.” The discussion focused on how to build a network that advances prevention and brings together public health best practices to sport. This session was facilitated by RALIANCE’s David Lee, NCAA’s Jessica Wagner, and Jeff Milroy of Institute to Promote Athlete Health & Wellness at the University of North Carolina Greenville. From researchers, athletic trainers, athletes, sports management, coaches, officials, and parents, it was clear from the discussion that there is tremendous interest in building a network dedicated to using the power of sport to foster healthy athletes and communities.

Despite the headlines these days exposing high-profiles cases of unchecked sexual abuse in different in sports, our productive sessions at the APHA annual meeting shine a light on how sport is a powerful and positive force in our society. It has the potential to instill important values in athletes, shape positive attitudes, and build strong communities.

Industry spotlight: Runners Alliance and the race to end harassment

Last month, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Garmin, and Hoka One One launched Runners Alliance, a page dedicated to women’s safety and addressing harassment while running. This diverse partnership follows a recent Runners World audience survey that found 84 percent of women have been harassed while running at least once, including being groped, followed, flashed, and cat-called. Many admitted to changing their habits to increase personal safety. Some ran only in daylight, switched to a treadmill or stopped running altogether after their experience with harassment.

RALIANCE understands these results all too well. In our 2019 Measuring #MeToo: A National Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault report, we found that street harassment negatively impacts individuals and forces them to change their behavior.

Far too often society asks women to keep themselves from being victimized. Suggestions like carry mace or a taser, only run in groups, or only run with a dog require women to change their behavior in order to avoid harassment. We commend the Runners Alliance partners for saying harassment is unacceptable and that it’s on the entire runner community to do better and look out for each other.

Runners Alliance’s platform illustrates how organizations can work together to educate all users to be helpful bystanders. We agree with Runners Alliance that “to really make the sport safer, everyone has to do their part.” This movement is just one concrete example of how companies from different industries can come together towards a common goal to make sport and communities safer.

Learn more about how sport is part of the solution and other examples of ways prevention is happening in and through sport at RALIANCE’S Sport + Prevention Center.

Cover of book You Throw LIke a Girl: The Blind Side of Masculnity with pciture of authro Don MsPherson, African AMerican man with beared wearing blue shirt and darker blue sweater

You Throw Like a Girl

“How do we raise boys to be whole men without degrading our daughters in the process?” asks Don McPherson in his newly released book You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity.  This former National Football League and Canadian Football League quarterback proceeds to explore how to do speaking not only as a man, as an African American and as an athletic, but as a person dedicated to preventing gender based violence. McPherson tells his story of becoming and being a prevention practitioner.

The book’s title is a common insult from men to other men.  In these pages, McPherson calls to men to explore what they can become. He insists that “we should be asking more what boys and men can become and asking less what they should or shouldn’t do.”

Drawing on his experiences as a boy, as a son, as an athlete and as person working to prevent men’s violence, he provides many examples of how to challenge men to move away from sexist, homophobic and misogyny.  Similar to what another Syracuse University football star Joe Ehrmann wrote in his book InsideOut Coaching, McPherson demonstrated how sport can go beyond reinforcing negative and destructive male norms, and help shape positive behaviors.

He credits those whom have help teach him, from Mentors in Violence Prevention founder Jackson Katz, to Oakland Men’s Project development of the “Act Like a Man Box” to his father’s examples of loving his family. I was moved by his stories of how he learned to be a man from our culture, and how he had to relearn how to become the man working to be a healthy man actively engaged to prevent men’s violence.

We need more examples like Don McPherson of how to work to create a world without violence.

Check out RALIANCE’s Sport + Prevention Center on strategies to engage sport to be part of the solution to preventing sexual and domestic violence.

Stage at It's On Us Summit with blkue screen

Athletes as leaders to combat sexual violence

RALIANCE is proud to be a sponsor of the first ever It’s On Us National Student Leadership Summit to Combat Sexual Assault held last week at Ohio University in Athens, OH. RALIANCE’s John Finley presented a workshop for student activists and leaders committed to ending sexual violence nationwide that focused on how sports culture can be leveraged as a critical part of the solution to ending sexual assault on college campuses, and how our work can move beyond simply labeling athletes as perpetrators to an understanding best practices for engaging them in a prevention movement.  Students shared their experiences with sports culture on their campuses, and discussed the best ways to get athletes to take preventing sexual violence seriously.

RALIANCE has developed its Sport + Prevention Center that highlights strategies and resources for sport to be part of the solution to end sexual violence.

Football players in a huddle #RollRedRollPBS Monday, June 17 at 10 PM on PBS

Interview Excerpts: Roll Red Roll Documentary Film Director Nancy Schwartzman

Ahead of today’s debut of the Roll Red Roll  documentary on PBS, Director Nancy Schwartzman spoke with Brian Pinero, former RALIANCE National Project Coordinator, about the film’s efforts to document the aftermath of the 2012 high school rape case in Steubenville, Ohio and shed light on the broader culture that normalizes and enables sexual violence. Below are lightly edited excerpts from the interview. The full podcast is available here.

In August, RALIANCE will also host a special screening of the film and panel discussion during the National Sexual Assault Conference. The panel will include Schwartzman and members of the Pennsylvania sports community to discuss the film and the role sport can play in preventing sexual violence.

Director Nancy Schwartzman on the impact of sexual violence in a community:

I’ve done anti-violence work and I know that a rape is not just between two people. It really ripples out and affects so many relationships – relationships with victim or perpetrators’ family, friends, communities, church, school. It’s a network of relationships and there’s a tear when that happens. [Steubenville] was just a microcosm of all these ripple effects.

On why she wanted to make a film about sexual violence that was not about the victim:

If we are going to change the culture, we have to look at the behavior, we have to look at the perpetrators. We have to look at the culture that enables rape because victims are on such a spectrum. It really makes no difference what a victim of violence is doing, or wearing, or drinking or not drinking. So, shifting the focus and making this film really about the boys and really about the town is new.

On what was exciting about the film reviews:

They were making references to the Kavanaugh hearings, making references to Spring Break and fraternities. I’m like, this is a film about high school football context, and I love that you’re pulling it as wide as it is.

On the need to hold others and ourselves accountable:

What’s powerful about the film and where we all need to go is to less of a call-out culture and to more of a call-in…We’ve all known about something and not done anything. We’ve all participated tacitly because this has been our culture. Our schools, our jokes, our pop culture, our television has enabled us to be desensitized…We’re all part of it, and there’s like a real fear and unwillingness to acknowledge that sometimes people you love can do really bad things.

On the important role that coaches play in prevention:

It really needs to be modeled also by coaches. It’s not fair to put all of this pressure on 16-year-olds. The adults from the top need to be modeling this is what is acceptable on my field and off the field.

On what gives her hope:

[W]e decided making sure that this campaign invites men to join us…We’ve had amazing people like Wade Davis, former NFL player, openly gay, incredible. I want to be around passionate men who are working alongside us to prevent gender-based violence, that gives me hope. The women in my film give me hope. A blogger Alex Goddard, Rachel Dissell, Marianne [Hemmeter]…these are women who made this s— happen…It’s about the critical reviews from all of these men who are like we are so done with this culture. None of the reviews are an indictment of football, it’s much larger…The more allies we can bring in the more hopeful I think it is.

Sport, a Beautiful Platform for Prevention

A few months ago, Valencia Peterson (Coach V) of Open Door Abuse Awareness & Prevention, was a presenter on RALIANCE’s webinar discussing her prevention work with high school football. Coach V perfectly described how sport can help prevent sexual and domestic violence:

Recently, we came across a story highlighting the work Coach V and her organization are doing with high school football in the Philadelphia area.

NCAA Athletes Join April Campaign as Part of the Solution to Ending Sexual Violence

This week, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and its student-athletes will spotlight a two-day, athlete-led social media campaign around sexual violence prevention. This campaign will include institutions, coaches and athletes across all three NCAA divisions, focusing on promoting awareness and efforts to prevent sexual violence.

RALIANCE spoke to three people at the NCAA about their current work around the prevention of sexual violence and the upcoming athlete-led campaign.

First, to learn about what the NCAA is doing to prevent sexual violence we talked with Jessica Wagner, who works as the Associate Director of Prevention and Health Promotion for the Sports Science Institute.

RALIANCE: Tell us about the history of the NCAA’s efforts in sexual violence prevention.

WAGNER: The Association has been actively engaged in addressing sexual violence prevention through proactive membership and societal engagement measures since 2010.  Most recently in August 2017, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted the Policy to Combat Campus Sexual Violence.  This policy requires that each university president or chancellor, director of athletics and campus Title IX coordinator attest annually that:

  • The athletics department is informed on, integrated in, and compliant with institutional policies and processes regarding sexual violence prevention and proper adjudication and resolution of acts of sexual violence.
  • The institutional policies and processes regarding sexual violence prevention and adjudication, and the name and contact information for the campus Title IX coordinator, are readily available within the department of athletics, and are provided to student-athletes.
  • All student-athletes, coaches and staff have been educated each year on sexual violence prevention, intervention and response, to the extent allowable by state law and collective bargaining agreements. 

Furthermore if a school is not able to attest their compliance with the above requirements, it will be prohibited from hosting any NCAA championship competitions for the next applicable academic year. 

Fore more information about the policy see:

What are some of the resources and tools that are available to support athletes and those working in athletics around the issue of sexual violence?

The NCAA Sport Science Institute, in partnership with the NCAA Office of Inclusion,  engaged leading higher education organizations across the country to develop the publication of the Sexual Violence Prevention: An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture.  The tool kit provides resource independent tools for athletic administrators to continue their efforts to create communities free of violence and safe place for students to thrive.   

In addition, the NCAA sponsors the Step UP! Bystander Intervention training program that is a biannual, three-day facilitator training for athletics administrators and campus partners that educates student to be proactive in helping others.  The program aims to raise awareness for helping behaviors and increase motivation to help, develop skills and confidence when responding to problems or concerns, and ensure the safety and well-being of self and others.

Find these resources at

Yannick Kluch works in the Office of Inclusion at the NCAA and has worked to support the development of the two-day, athlete-led campaign this month.

RALIANCE: Yannick, tell us about the upcoming two day campaign, who it’s targeted at and how was it created?

KLUCH: The campaign was created by members of the Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee, which was established by the NCAA Board of Governors to provide student-athlete input to the board. The Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee includes student-athletes from all three divisions, and we noticed very quickly that there are certain issues that student-athletes across all divisions are passionate about. Sexual violence prevention is one such topic, which is why the committee decided to lead the way in creating a social media campaign dedicated to this important cause. The campaign is targeted at student-athletes as well as administrators and coaches across our over 1,100 member institutions and conference offices. The goal of this two-day campaign is to create awareness for sexual violence prevention (Day 1) as well as showcase the great things our member institutions, conference offices and the NCAA itself are already doing when it comes to this topic (Day 2).

How did you work with the Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee in creating this and getting the committee excited about it? 

The most rewarding part about working with the student-athletes on the Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee is that they are the ones most passionate about engaging their fellow student-athletes on issues important to the student-athlete experience! So it really was the student-athletes leading the way in creating this campaign. Our NCAA staff was working alongside these student-athlete leaders and assisted them as much as possible to create a concept for the campaign, communicate with the membership and promote the campaign. For example, we worked with the committee in putting together a toolkit that was shared with our membership to help them prepare with the campaign.

What are some examples of things you hope to see during the campaign?

I was the NCAA office of inclusion lead working with our Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee as well as our national Student-Athlete Advisory Committees in running the first-ever MOIC and SAAC Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign this past October. We were extremely proud to see our student-athletes, administrators and coaches across all three division participate in the campaign and engage on issues related to diversity and inclusion. The campaign hashtag #NCAAInclusion was trending at number 8 in the country at one point, and the campaign reached over 24 million people on Twitter alone. The creativity of our membership when it came to participating in the campaign was incredible! I am hoping to see a similar engagement with this campaign focused on sexual violence prevention and awareness. I have no doubt that the student-athletes, coaches and administrators at our over 1,100 member institutions and conference offices will find creative ways to showcase their efforts on and dedication to this extremely important topic!

How can we follow the campaign?

You can follow the campaign by tracking our campaign hashtag #StudentAthletesInAction. The campaign hashtag reflects the crucial role our student-athletes play in driving positive change on their campuses, at the conference level and in society at large. I also recommend following the social media accounts of each of our national Student-Athlete Advisory Committees. For example, you can find the Twitter accounts for Division I SAAC here, for Division II SAAC here and for Division III SAAC here.

Finally, Taylor Ricci former Oregon State Gymnast  a member of the NCAA Board of Governors Student Athlete Engagement Committee talks about her work with the committee, her work with previous athlete lead campaigns and her expectations for the upcoming athlete lead social media campaign. 

RALIANCE: Tell us about your leadership role as the chair of the Board of Governors Student Athlete Engagement Committee. 

RICCI: I was elected as Chair for the Board of Governors Student Athlete Engagement Committee in 2018. After serving on the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as the PAC-12 Representative, I was excited to continue my work with the NCAA on this committee. It has been exciting to see how much our group has accomplished in its first few years, which is a reflection on the incredible current and former student-athletes I get to work with. 

What role did the Board of Governors play in encouraging this campaign? 

The Board of Governors is an incredibly influential group in the NCAA so when they tasked the student-athlete engagement committee to recognize good works happening in college athletics we brainstormed what is now coming to life with this campaign. Our committee recognized the success that the MOIC had with their recent diversity and inclusion social media campaign so decided that our best opportunity would be to establish a social media campaign of our own. I have had the pleasure to see first hand how much effort members of our committee have played in developing this campaign and furthermore how the Board of Governors and NCAA staff have guided us in this endeavor. I think that what we have created is a platform that will continue to live, breathe, and impact for a very long time.

One of the accomplishments you have been apart of was co-founding #DamWorthit a mental health awareness campaign. You know first hand the impact athletes can have on your peers both in and out of athletics. Talk about the role athletes can have on campus around preventing sexual violence with this campaign?

The Dam Worth It Campaign has been such an amazing journey! If there is one thing Dam Worth It has showed me is that student-athletes, and the platform of sport, have an amazing opportunity to impact the world around them. One of the key aspects of Dam Worth It is that it is a peer to peer model, which has been the major reason why it has been so successful on ending the stigma surrounding mental health. This is no different than student-athletes using their voices to talk about topics that not only impact college athletes, but our entire society. Student-athletes will talk about preventing sexual violence with this social media campaign and because it is coming from their voices it will be relatable and therefore have the greatest impact.

As a former student athlete, what are some of the things you are excited to see happen or highlighted during the campaign? 

As I mentioned above, this campaign is made up of both current and former student-athletes. As a former student-athlete myself I see the amazing talent this group has. I know that the younger members of this committee are going to take great leadership moving forward and I am excited to see how this campaign will continue to grow and develop. Anything new requires time, effort and revisions, and I’m confident that the Board of Governors Student Athlete Engagement Committee will take current social topics that are important to them and use this campaign to raise awareness and influence positive change. 

RALIANCE is proud to support the work of the NCAA and its athletes to be part of the solution to ending sexual violence. We encourage you to follow the hashtag #StudentAthletesInAction on April 17th and18th and learn more about the work and efforts of student and collegiate athletics to prevent sexual violence. To learn more about our work and resources, check out the Sport and Prevention Center:

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