Video Takes on Tough Topics

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.1, January 2006,

At Rutgers University, an educational drama program called “SCREAM Athletes” has been used for several years to prepare athletes for negative pressures they face off the track or field. An acronym for Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths, the program uses athletes as actors in fictional scenarios portraying real-life situations. The skits are followed by frank discussions about aspects of student-athlete life that are not always addressed openly, and the program’s candid approach has made it an effective tool on the Rutgers campus.

Now athletic departments nationwide can access the same program. This summer, the Rutgers Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance (SAS/CVA) collaborated with Rutgers Intercollegiate Athletics to produce a 25-minute video version of the program. The creators chose to focus the film on the issue of sexual assault, because research shows that some aspects of college athletics culture make violence against women a particular problem, according to Ruth Anne Koenick, Director of SAS/CVA at Rutgers. Language, traditions, and practices in athletics can create an atmosphere Koenick describes as “rape-supportive,” where violence against women is tolerated or even promoted.

However, the SCREAM Athletes video focuses not on problems within athletics, but on how athletes can be agents for change. “Are there differences between athletics culture and the rest of campus on this issue? Absolutely,” Koenick says. “But we don’t approach this as, ‘Student-athletes are more prone to being sexually violent.’ Our stance has always been that student-athletes have a unique opportunity to take leadership on this issue. Yes, there are some things in their culture that may be conducive to sexual violence, so let’s help student-athletes step up and say, ‘This is not behavior that I will tolerate, in myself or in my teammates.’”

Both the on-campus program and the video take an unblinking approach to addressing difficult subjects. “After a production, there is usually dead silence,” says Ryan Westman, a senior on the Rutgers Track and Field team who works as the program’s coordinator. “People are in shock at how realistic the skits are. The theater productions create a very real experience that leaves an impact. And that is something we strive for.”

The video program is appropriate for both college and high school audiences, Koenick says, although she cautions that some high school administrators may have concerns about language used in the film. For either audience, she strongly suggests involving an expert in the field of sexual assault when presenting the video.

The video is available for purchase on the Web. For more information, visit: and click on “SCREAM Athletes video.”