A group of high school athletes trained off the playing fields and courts for a new challenge on Wednesday.
They practiced for life, learning how to be strong men without being violent while still being role models of strength.
About 100 male area high school athletes from across Smith County sat in the seats of the Little Theater at Robert E. Lee High School. Healthy masculinity was the topic of conversation as the young men and their coaches learned how men can prevent rape by replacing harmful attitudes, assumptions and behaviors.
High profile sexual assault cases and stories have gone viral in the media, and coaches, teachers and school officials are trying to figure out what preventive measures to take to help student athletes not become part of the problem.
Maya Bethany, founder of the 1 in 3 Foundation and a local sports reporter came up with a way to help student athletes, coaches and teachers in Smith County. Her idea was to get male student athletes in a guided conversation about healthy masculinity, bystander intervention and social and emotional learning to prevent rape and rape culture.
"After the incidents at Baylor University and my own experiences I started looking at ways to control this at a high school level," Bethany said. "I came across Men Can Stop Rape. The concept of men who were teaching ways to prevent rape was exactly what I was looking for."
Approximately 100 male student athlete leaders from all sports gathered Wednesday in the Little Theater at Robert E. Lee High School to engage in the bystander intervention campaign.
"This is helping them learn how to handle different situations and to hear it from an outside source," John Tyler Football Coach Ricklan Holmes said. "They tend to pay more attention to a topic like this if they hear and see it in a different forum."
Jeremy Hardy, a training and technical assistance coordinator from Men Can Stop Rape, led the discussion and training session. Hardy, a former college athlete, stood at the front of the theater and led the discussion on assumptions and stereotypes. He guided the boys through exercises and encouraged them to speak up and answer questions regarding who they believed were strong men, how men show strength, why sexual violence is a man's issue and how to intervene if they see issues.
Kollin McCartney, a Lindale High School senior baseball and football player, said he has never heard any of the information before, but knows it's needed and will be helpful.
“I know this will have a positive impact on me," McCartney said. “This is good for us because we are leaders to younger people in our communities because of sports. We can set a good example and help prevent this in the future.”
IF YOU GO
The 1 in 3 Foundation and Men Can Stop Rape are teaming up for one more event in Tyler on Thursday. The “What Does Healthy Masculinity Mean to You” will include a town hall conversation from 9:30-11 a.m. followed by lunch and a training about social and emotional learning from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Wisenbaker Conference Center at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, 800 E. Dawson St.