Why You Should Be Training Your Club Sports Athletes on Sexual Assault Prevention

Why You Should Be Training Your Club Sports Athletes on Sexual Assault Prevention

The mandated annual training requirement included in NCAA’s sexual assault policy means that nearly every college and university across the country has now instituted programs for their intercollegiate varsity athletes and athletic staff on sexual assault and hazing prevention. 

But what about the OTHER athletes on our college campuses? You know, the ultimate frisbee team member, the women’s rugby flanker, the Quidditch chaser? (Yes, Quidditch. It’s a thing). 

Here are my top 4 reasons colleges and universities should be training intramural or club sports athletes

1. Most athletes on campus compete on intramural or club teams

On most campuses, students involved in intramural or club sports far outnumber varsity athletes. In fact, as the National Intramural Sports Association (NIRSA) notes, over eight million college students are involved in intramural sports, compared to fewer than a half million NCAA athletes. Are they receiving the same training as varsity athletes? Are their coaching staff receiving the same training?

For many campuses, the answer is no. And, there are practical reasons why. Unlike NCAA programs, intramural sports programs typically have far fewer administrative staff members to develop, deliver, oversee, track, and assess athlete training; their athletes are voluntary as are many of their coaches (for those teams that have any coaching staff at all). The coaches that are compensated may be paid from team-raised funds, or from alumni contributions, rather than from the institutional payroll. Intramural or club teams often have irregular practice schedules, gaining access to campus sports facilities only after NCAA athletes practice is completed.

2. Intramural athletes are more likely to experience sexual and/or gender based violence

Data from Vector Solutions' Campus Prevention Network climate surveys on the experiences and behaviors of intramural athletes reveal why institutions should prioritize delivering training to these athletes: 

  • Intramural athletes report experiencing incapacitated sexual contact more often than general student population (20.8% vs 15.3%). 

Intramural athletes report lower levels of sexual violence before they became a student compared to the general student population (17.1% vs 23.7%) BUT they experience higher levels of sexual violence since they became a student at their current institution compared to the general survey population (16.4% vs 13.3%).

3. Members of Intramural sports teams report similar risk factors for committing harm as varsity athletes

A study of male collegiate recreational athletes at one institution indicated that intramural athletes do not differ significantly from intercollegiate athletes when it comes to acceptance of rape myths and endorsement of traditional gender roles for women, but that both groups of athletes buy into these myths and beliefs at a much higher rate than the non-athletes surveyed. The researchers also noted that male intramural athletes, as well as intercollegiate athletes, reported engaging in significantly higher levels of sexual coercion than the general student population. It couldn’t be clearer, intramural athletes ALSO need training. 

Luckily, most colleges and universities, as a part of their comprehensive risk management plans, require intramural student-athletes to participate in at least some training on, for example: responding to injuries or concussions; use of institutional logos; campus vehicle or facility use; competition guidelines; funds disbursement, etc. Including sexual violence prevention training for intramural student-athletes can and should be integrated into the campus’s risk management plan, especially given the multi-million dollar losses universities have reported related to sexual assault. 

4. Intramural athletes can model healthy behavior for their peers

While Campus Prevention Network’s data identifies elevated rates of sexual victimization among intramural athletes, there is positive news when it comes to these students’ attitudes and beliefs. Intramural athletes, for example, are more likely than the general student population to: 

  • Know where to get help regarding sexual assault (56.7% agree vs. 47.6%); 
  • Know where to find confidential resources (60.5% agree vs. 50.7%); 
  • Understand their school's formal procedure for addressing reports (40.4% agree vs. 34.7%). 

Intramural students also are more likely than the general student population to have confidence that college administrators will handle sexual assault in a fair manner. 

Focusing on the strengths of intramural athletes should form the basis of any training initiative, and will, ideally, be driven by data specific to your institution. Including intramural student-athlete team captains or other team leaders in training opportunities delivered to student leaders can also help to harness the knowledge these student-athlete opinion leaders already possess and share it with other students. 

Lastly, coaches and advisors of intramural teams, including--and perhaps even especially--those that are not university employees, also need training. Intramural sports coaches need to understand their responsibilities related to reporting, as well as how to direct harmed students to appropriate resources on campus. 

How Vector Solutions Can Help

Vector Solutions can help you empower students to be proactive bystanders against sexual violence through our engaging, research-based Sexual Violence Prevention Education courses, which are customized by student type and group.

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Holly Rider-Milkovich

VP, Impact

Holly leads the Impact & Education team at Vector Solutions, helping ensure that the thought leadership we deliver to our customers is based on research and established best practice and she's also our subject matter expert on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. Holly joined Vector Solutions most recently from the University of Michigan where she oversaw that institution's prevention and advocacy efforts for nearly a decade. Holly also brings national policy experience to her role at Vector Solutions as one of the rule-makers for the 2014 Clery Act regulations and an advisor to the Obama Administration White House Taskforce on preventing campus sexual assault. She brings over 25 years of experience in preventing and responding to sexual- and gender-based violence in higher education, workplaces, and communities.

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