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Prevention on the Field: Tips for Coaches

Many of us have heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” Often parents are not the only people educating youth. Given the significant role that sports play for many young people and communities, coaches are in a position to greatly impact young athletes and shape community norms.

As preventionists, we can build partnerships with coaches by giving them the skills they need to positively shape their team culture. Try using these easy talking points to make the connection between healthy and rewarding team dynamics and sexual assault prevention. 

Show Respect On and Off the Field/Court

Coaches often teach athletes that respect for coaches, parents, referees/umpires, fans, and others is needed. Yet respect off the field is rarely addressed or it’s even dismissed. Coaches can teach athletes that respect for someone they are dating or engaging in sexual activity with is equally important.  

Limit Trash Talking

Trying to get into the head of your opponent is part of the game. It’s important for a coach and team to define the line between fun and disrespectful trash talk. Off the court, when joking around with friends, there is still a line. Any joke about rape is crossing a line, and so are gendered jokes like “you play like a girl,” that equate female gender identity with being bad at sports. 

Communication is Key

In football, basketball, and soccer, every player on the team must know what play is being called. For example, if there is a pop fly in a baseball game, then everyone around the ball needs to know who is going to catch it to avoid injury or dropping the ball. This is achieved through clear and open communication.  This same value can be applied to relationships. Boundaries about sex need to be clearly defined and communicated to make sure both partners are on the same page of the playbook. 

Be a Role Model

Being a role model is something players earn through sportsmanship and athleticism. It is a privilege to play a sport and younger players look up to older players. On and off the field, athletes should speak out when they hear/see someone being disrespected or taken advantage of to model the behavior that keeps everyone safer and having a good time.

Win/Lose as a Team

Teammates are there for each other. If one player is having an off day, another player can encourage and support them. You win together and you lose together. As the saying goes, “there is no ‘I’ in team.” Teammates should rally behind each other if one of them is being targeted, and should also hold each other accountable for problematic behavior. 

Reviewed: March 21st, 2017