ODU Football Players Undergo Unique Training
By: Anastasia Hamilton
In February 2013, in the aftermath of a contentious rape investigation against two football players at Old Dominion University, the football team added a program to their annual spring training: sexual assault prevention training. This program is now part of the fall orientation for incoming football players lead by Joann Bautti, Assistant Director of ODU’s Women’s Center.
“This is about planting seeds with them; you are a leader and have a responsibility,” said Bautti. Athletes are easily seen on college campuses and need to be setting good examples. This program is designed to protect them and prevent issues from arising. The program is funded by the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, which gives grants to universities to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
Part of this grant money goes to student outreach and education specifically geared to the student-athletes.
Bautti really connected with the football players by tying in Coach Bobby Wilder’s “12 Steps to Success.” She also adopted Wilder’s goal to “AIM HIGH” in this program and in life and just “be good people.”
Bautti and four male educators led the program. The first activity was an ice breaker where the football players were asked to identify stereotypes associated with them and write them on the board.
“A lot of guys were putting ‘manwhore’ up on the board. People think we get around,” said Eric Hampson, a freshman.
Then the staff asked the players to set aside those stereotypes as well as judgments they had about the staff, who had given very brief introductions on purpose.
Football players were also asked to put their life goals on the board.
Hampson is a Business major, but he wants to take football as far as he can just like a lot of his teammates. They’ve been given an opportunity and they want to take full advantage of it.
They watched a TED talk called, “A call to Men,” by Tony Porter. Porter discusses the “man box” which is a box society has created for what we expect men to be. There were four breakout sessions in separate rooms, each led by a male facilitator. Players were given a foam “man box” that they wrote on and filled out themselves. Then they discussed connections between their boxes and the stereotypes they had previously identified.
The scene where the father, Tony Porter, told his son that he threw like a girl resonated with Hampson. “It was interesting, I never thought of it like that. You grow up with this persona of what being a man is,” said Hampson. Everyone is guilty of putting men into the man box, but not everyone realizes it.
Bautti challenged players to determine what would help them accomplish their life goals and what would end up derailing them. “When you embrace stereotypical traits, be aggressive on the field, not at home,” Bautti told players.
To conclude the training the staff reintroduced themselves, this time including some surprising facts about themselves. A white facilitator had dropped out of high school and never thought he would attend graduate school. A semi-professional football player identified himself as a feminist. Another facilitator who many of the players thought was cool shared that he had only had two sexual partners. When the players learned more about the facilitators, it showed them how others have stepped beyond their “man box” and that they could too.
“You don’t have to be that manly persona,” said Hampson, “It was less rape prevention, more like we’re all football players and manly men, but you can be whoever you want to be.”