High School Football Players Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships

High School Football Players Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships

On Monday, Aug. 10, varsity football players from one of the largest high schools in Texas huddled up with members of the loveisrespect team and our partners to talk about how to prevent and end dating abuse. The guys shared their personal experiences with dating and digital abuse in an intimate setting inside Skyline High School’s cafeteria. Surrounded by their coaches and a small number of guests who advocate for healthy teen relationships, they opened up about the relationship challenges they face.


Brian Pinero, chief program officer for loveisrespect and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, led the frank conversation. “Every day, our advocates hear from young women seeking help with their partner’s controlling and abusive behavior. It’s not often that we hear from young men, but they are sharing with us now that they also experience [dating] abuse,” said Pinero. “The boys tell us they sometimes struggle with how to avoid reacting with violence when faced with verbal or physical attacks by their girlfriends. They want to know the warning signs that a relationship could be abusive and they want to know how to break up without hurting feelings or causing drama. Having healthy dating relationships is important to them.”


Pinero was joined by Crayton Webb, vice president of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for Mary Kay Inc., sponsor of loveisrespect’s Text for Help service and creator of the #ManUP initiative to get more men involved in ending domestic violence and dating abuse, and Daron Roberts, former NFL coach and founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas. Webb noted, “It’s important that we adults provide young men with the tools they need to have healthy relationships, but also to guide them when their behavior or that of their [partners] has turned unhealthy.”

Roberts provided insight into the college and pro-football culture that hasn’t always encouraged players to intervene when witnessing abuse in their teammates’ relationships. “These young men are leaders in their schools and often in their communities. It’s not unusual that their peers will look to them for examples of how to act in a relationship. They have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned and help educate about the issue of dating abuse and ultimately influence the prevention and end of it.”


One man who was particularly interested in supporting the players’ personal growth is Skyline varsity football coach, Derick Roberson. Even though high school football is king in Texas, Roberson readily offered to dedicate two hours of the first day of practice to the topic of dating violence. Beyond winning in football, he wants his players to win in life.

“I was raised in a home with domestic violence, so I’ve seen first-hand its devastating effects on a family. We’ve got to change the culture that what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors,” Roberson said. “I’m hopeful that open conversations like the ones we’re having now help young men and women know that they’re not alone if they’re being abused and they should seek help. We all deserve to have respectful and loving relationships.”

Many thanks to our friends at Mary Kay Inc. and the Tess White Foundation for their support!

This event was part of our Love is Digital campaign. Learn more here.

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