Want To Teach Young Men Consent? Start With Their Coaches

Aug 11, 2016

Monte Robinson, a football coach at Westinghouse Academy, tells a group of athletic directors how he has implemented the Coaching Boys Into Men program.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 30 men, mostly coaches and athletic directors, at the Sewall Center at Robert Morris University this week were asked one important question: "Who here was ever taught about consent?"

No one raised his hand.

Advocates against domestic violence and sexual assault are bringing sexual consent education to high schools and colleges through Southwest PA Says No More. Organizers say building respectful relationships begins with influential people in a boy’s life – coaches.

“Coaching Boys Into Men” starts with a system of cards that guide a coach through the principals of a healthy relationship.

Addie Muti, associate athletic director at Robert Morris University, said it’s a way to talk to athletes regularly about something many coaches feel uncomfortable talking about – sex. RMU has used the program for three years with all of its student athletes.

Muti said coaches teach the program, but it relies on peers to reinforce the principals.

“It’s one thing for me to check them, but it’s another thing for them to check themselves. And I think that’s the major thing going on here,” she said. “It’s one thing to have the experts come in and do a presentation for your coaches or your student athletes; it’s another thing for the coach to say, ‘This is important to me.’”

The training emphasizes teachable moments like shutting down disrespectful conversations and reinforcing positive language and behavior. Many speakers at the summit said it’s important for coaches to teach this because they’re the ones also teaching aggression.

Coaches have to illustrate where the line is and teach when aggression is OK, she said.