“Give me an S, give me an A … Go SafeTeam!”

With August comes prep for back to school (gulp!) and the start of practice for fall sports. The CAC is also ramping up for the season, with its SafeTeam sexual abuse prevention training for coaches and athletes.

Who’s eligible? Any school within the six-county area (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska, and Wexford) as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

How long does it take? Approximately one hour

How much does it cost? It’s free! Better yet, coaches and athletes who complete the training receive money either for their athletic department or a specific sports team to spend on equipment, uniforms or other needs.

The CAC-developed training is designed to “educate coaches and athletes on the affect sexual abuse can have and how to prevent it in an athletic setting,” said Jourdan Dean, CAC prevention coordinator.

The CAC piloted the training with about 40 coaches at Traverse City Central High School in February, after community member Jen Dutmers first brought the idea to the CAC. They decided to start with adults who spend considerable time outside school hours with children – coaches.

Additional training sessions were held this past spring and now close to 200 area coaches and athletes have completed the training, said Dean, with a goal of reaching hundreds more in the coming months.

Mitch Miggenburg, athletic director for Kingsley Area Schools, participated in the training with about a dozen of the district’s spring sports coaches and volunteers before the season kicked off.

“I got a lot of positive feedback,” Miggenburg said. “It was invaluable for them to hear that info.”

He said sexual abuse cases such as those involving athletes at Michigan State University and USA Swimming drive home the importance of doing something like this at the small, local level.

In addition to knowing how to recognize the signs of abuse and understand the proper protocol to follow if abuse is suspected, the coaches learned about situations to try to avoid. For example, limiting one-on-one time between athletes and coaches, such as offering a student a ride home or waiting with him or her after practice until a ride shows up, and how to handle these situations differently.

Miggenburg plans to continue the training with the fall and winter sports.

“I highly recommend it to local area schools,” he said.

While the training is tailored to the audience, the objectives are the same – how to protect the athletic community from the risk of abuse, how to recognize the signs of abuse, and how to respond responsibly.

“The goal is that all who attend become vigilant advocates for those on their team,” said Dean.

Being able to give money to typically cash-strapped athletic programs is another positive outcome of the prevention program, she added.

Anne Morrison Perry, a former CAC board member and former teacher and coach at Traverse City Area Public Schools, donated the initial $5,000 to get the training program off the ground. The CAC also recently received $5,000 from Cherryland Cares, a charitable fund of Cherryland Electric, and $5,000 from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation to continue to fund the financial incentive for area schools.

Any school interested in learning more or scheduling training can contact Jourdan Dean.