AUSTIN (KXAN) — The definition of “coach” is “a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes,” but for many coaches the role they play goes far beyond that definition.
“In our culture today there are a lot of broken homes, and coaches act as a kind of surrogate parent in many circumstances,” says Bill Miller, an Austin father.
Miller is behind an initiative to help high school coaches talk to and educate athletes on heavy issues like dating violence, sexual assault and consent.
The idea came to him two years ago when he was reading an article in the New York Times about Jameis Winston, a former Florida State football player and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, accused of sexual assault in 2012. Miller recalls reading that when Winston was asked by a judge how the woman gave consent, he replied,’ She was moaning.”
“I thought, we need to help them. We need to train them to understand what words mean, what gestures mean and just communicate better,” said Miller.
Miller has two daughters, one at Baylor University and the other at the University of Southern California, two more reasons that pushed him to pursue creating the program.
To make it happen he first enlisted help from the state, getting support from Commissioner of Education, Michael Williams, as well as the chairman of the house education committee. Williams told Miller all he had to do was raise money privately for the program, which he did. In addition to foundations, the initiative received funding from the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Houston Rockets and Texas Rangers.
Miller also got full support from the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA), which has led the way in recruiting leading experts in education to help develop the program, which they’ve called ‘Starting the Conversation’.
“This is just another one of those issues that’s hard to talk to young people about, and we needed something the coaches could use to start the conversation and get it on the table,” said D.W. Rutledge, Executive Director of THSCA.
The program will include three 20 minute sessions, as well as three videos, and be available to all Texas coaches. They’ll also receive a starter kit to utilize.
“About 30,000 coaches [in Texas] and they all, over a lifetime, will impact about 20,000 young people. So you’re talking a lot of influence, powerful influence,” said Rutledge.
Head Girls Basketball Coach at San Marcos High, Veronda Kendall, says a program like this is overdue.
“For one I’m a mother and I have two daughters, both college-age. Having worked with female athletes and having been one myself for my entire career, I know this is an important part of the growth and development for both young men and women,” said Coach Kendall.
She plans to implement the program with her students, and believes they’ll be grateful for the education.
“Unfortunately students sometimes don’t have these conversations anywhere else except maybe at school,” said Kendall. “I think they’ll be excited and grateful that they can have the discussions.”
Miller says he doesn’t deserve credit for the program, and that the real credit goes to all the coaches helping guide students who will implement the program.
The THSCA will be unveiling the program this November, and will be available for coaches to use in the spring.