Connecting the Dots Between Sports, Gender, and Relationships

Jason Gant

This is a guest post from a recent participant of the Futures Without Violence Campus Fellows Leadership Program. Interested in joining next year’s cohort? Applications are due June 30. APPLY HERE.


My “a-ha” moment into gender-based violence prevention was not a traditional pathway.

Even as a public health major in undergrad, I was not intentionally focused on gender. My introduction into gender-based violence prevention was as a graduate student and basketball coach. My love for sports and athletic competition propelled me into the field of violence prevention, particularly gender-based violence prevention.

In 2014, prior to my joining the MS Behavioral Health (MSBH) cohort, a tape of former NFL player Ray Rice surfaced with clear, raw, and violent footage of him punching his wife in the face. Appalled and surprised by such a blatant act, by someone with such privilege, and access to support and capital was unfathomable to me.

With the aim of the MSBH being to understand behavior through the integration of mind and body, I saw a clear connection between athleticism, gender, and relationships. Violence occurs when stress reaches insurmountable levels. Toxic stress makes it difficult to control emotions in intense moments.

I applied to become a Campus Fellow for support and guidance as I formulated an approach to help athletes – and particularly men – become more aware of their emotions for healthy behaviors. Futures Without Violence allowed me to partner with like-minded students as well as an organization committed to ending gender-based violence, while simultaneously empowering me through workshops, online meetings, experiential field trips, and learning opportunities.

It was a truly transformative experience working with Futures Without Violence, and the support I’ve received has fueled my motivation to keep pushing forward to make change sustainable throughout university campuses nationwide.