Stepping Up

August 7, 2017

This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Athletic Management

Most athletes are very particular about their footwear. They are acutely aware that what they put on their feet can make or break their performance.

In April, student-athletes at Florida Atlantic University experienced what it was like to no longer control their shoe choice, through participation in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” an initiative to raise awareness of sexual assault. The project asks men (and women) to wear high heeled pumps and walk one mile, as both a playful and serious way to get people to think about causes, effects, and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.

“I think it is a great event to show respect for women and what they go through on a day-to-day basis,” said FAU football player Ryan Rickel.

The project is one of many initiatives college athletic departments are putting into place to help prevent sexual assault and violence. New programs range from education to discussion to signed pledges.

At Whitman College, the baseball team hosted Green Dot Thursday last season in partnership with Greek Advocates. The Green Dot project is focused on bystander intervention and ending sexual misconduct “one Green Dot at a time.” The symbol signifies an individual’s opportunity at any moment to make the campus safer, with a green dot defined as a behavior, choice, word, or attitude that counters or displaces a “red dot” of violence.

For the game, the baseball team sported visible green dots on their jersey sleeves as a show of support for the program. Greek advocates set up tailgating and activities related to bystander awareness.

Connecticut College has also embraced the program, and its men’s ice hockey team holds a Green Dot Game in February each year during the school’s Green Dot Week. Almost all players on the team have gone through the project’s bystander intervention program and they wear special green jerseys for the contest. Fans are asked to wear green and there are raffles and give-aways.

“It’s the biggest game of our season and the one we circle on the calendar every year,” said team captain Joe Giordano. “But as a team, we stress that representing Green Dot is about much more than a game—it’s about doing what is right and looking out for others.”

Chestnut Hill College’s athletic department is one of many to participate in an “It’s On Us” campaign. During Sexual Assault Awareness Week in early April, athletes threaded teal shoe laces through their sneakers and cleats to raise awareness about sexual assault and sexual violence. In addition, each team went through a training program on identifying and intervening in situations that may end in sexual violence.

Also this spring, Stanford University football players became the first group of collegiate student-athletes to sign the “Set the Expectations Pledge.” Created by Brenda Tracy, its aim is to hold male athletes accountable for their actions.

Tracy has addressed more than 30 college athletic teams, as well as attendees at the American Football Coaches Association conference this past winter, with the message that rape is a men’s issue they can help stop. A registered nurse and parent, Tracy was raped by four college football players in 1998 and decided to share her story publicly a few years ago.

“I tell every football team I work with I’m not here because I think you’re the problem,” Tracy told GoStanford.com. “I’m here because I think you’re the solution. Then I tell them why and how. It’s really about humanizing the issue and inspiring action.”

The pledge asks male athletes to acknowledge that violence against women is unacceptable, only practice consensual sex, and be leaders for change. It has a signature line for both athletes and coaches.

Stanford Head Football Coach David Shaw said his players not only signed the pledge but were inspired to do more. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many tweets from our football team,” he told GoStanford.com. “They were positive, they were energized. Guys have reached out to her repeatedly and asked, ‘What else can I do?’”

Athletic administrators and coaches can find a downloadable
copy of the pledge at:
www.brendatracy.com.

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