Three Tips For Discussing Sexual Violence With Student Athletes

Soccer coach talking with team

Athletic coaches have a challenging and important role in educational settings. Working to inspire their student athletes to reach their fullest potential while juggling their academic obligations is a complex process on its own. On top of that, coaches are closely involved in the broader growth and development of young people at a highly formative time in their lives.

We know this can be difficult, and that’s why RALIANCE has supported the creation of two toolkits for high school and college coaches, which can help them engage their student athletes on the subject of sexual assault through the prism of the moving documentary, Roll Red Roll.  

Each of the toolkits can help set athletic administrators, coaches, and counselors up for success in educating athletes about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Here are three quick tips from the toolkits to keep in mind before you start any conversation about sexual violence with your team:

1. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” No one – not even the world’s best coach – knows everything. If a student asks you a question about sexual violence to which you don’t know the answer, resist the urge to rush to respond and risk spreading misinformation. Instead, come prepared with local resources and national hotlines, such as RAINN, for additional information. You can and also offer to look up any unanswered questions after the discussion.

2. Prepare for potential disclosures. During a discussion about sexual violence, some of your athletes might feel motivated to share their own experiences with this issue. If your job requires you to report misconduct, let your athletes know this in advance. If you are able to have an expert – such as an advocate from a local rape crisis center or social worker – present for the discussion, that can make a big difference and gives your athletes someone to turn to for professional support.

3. Keep the conversation on track. Some student athletes may react to troubling content by becoming defensive or trying to derail the conversation. While it’s okay to listen and engage as appropriate, you can prevent the broader discussion from becoming unmanageable by offering to talk with a student one-on-one in more detail or by asking other students for input to steer the conversation back on track.  

To learn more about the Roll Red Roll toolkits, join us on February 17 for a webinar that will help your students get the most out of important discussions about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Hope to see you there!

RALIANCE provides consulting, assessment, and employee development services to help build more equitable workplace cultures and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. We stand ready to support your organization’s goals – contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

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