Training, Technical Assistance, & Consultation Offerings

Athletes face extreme vulnerability to sexual abuse because of their complex and sometimes isolating schedules, the intimate nature of coaching and development of sporting skills, the increased physical care and scrutiny, the pressures and stressors of athletic competition, as well as concerns about career opportunities in a finite time frame. A 2021 study by World Players Association indicated that 13% of student athletes experience sexual violence through their participation in sports, yet this number is believed to be much higher.[1] This statistic not only reveals the pervasiveness of the issues of sexual assault in sport, but it also underscores the need for a shift in the culture of sports where abuse of athletes is not tolerated, and a culture of centering the safety and wellness of athletes is the norm.

As a result of its work, The Army of Survivors is well positioned to support sports organizations and its athletes by providing trauma-informed services to help eliminate abuse in sports while assisting sports entities as they navigate transforming their organization to one that is athlete and athlete survivor-centered.

About The Army of Survivors & Our Expertise

The Army of Survivors is a global leader in advocating for survivors of sexual assault in sport. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 by more than 40 survivors of sexual violence that was enabled by USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the FBI. This unique history allows TAOS to bring awareness to the systemic problem of sexual abuse of athletes from the lens of athlete survivors, and everything continues to be done with athlete survivors at the center of the work. The goal is to end sexual violence in sports by ensuring all perpetrators, those who collude with perpetrators, and those who fail to act are held accountable; creating transparency in reporting; building an environment where athletes do not fear retaliation when reporting abuse; and advocating for meaningful change that supports athlete survivors.

TAOS’ mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual abuse against athletes at all levels from elite to non-elite since the culture of sports that tacitly supports sexual abuse against athletes does not discriminate based on an athlete’s ability. Our work is athlete survivor-founded, survivor-led and trauma informed and we carry out our work through three pillars that support TAOS’ mission: education, resources, and advocacy.

During the last few years, TAOS has been in contact with survivors of sexual abuse who have had re-traumatizing experiences with the entities charged with investigating reports of sexual abuse in sport. Given these wide-spread trends, in May 2022, TAOS conducted a series of trauma informed listening sessions with a diverse group of athletes across several different sports, genders, ages, and levels of competition regarding their experiences with reporting sexual assault in sports. Through these discussions with athlete survivors and witnesses of sexual abuse in sports regarding how their cases were handled, it is clear more reforms and guidance are needed to ensure accountability of individuals and institutions, best practices on trauma-informed training and support, and more transparency.

As a result of the brave sharing of athlete survivors and whistleblowers, TAOS created several recommendations on how governing bodies, organizations conducting independent investigations and other entities engaged in the reporting of abuse in sport can better improve safety, promote wellness, and prevent sexual violence and harassment in the future.

TAOS’ Recommended Phases of Engagement is developed from a trauma-informed approach to center the experience of athlete-survivors and to work with systems for meaningful culture change. Through Discovery + Assessment (Phase 1), Training and Technical Assistance (Phase 2), and Implementation for Culture Change + Community Building (Phase 3), TAOS guides organizations to trauma informed shifts necessary for interrupting and preventing abuse.

*For details on cost, please contact The Army of Survivors Executive Director, Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, at

Recommended Phases of Engagement

Phase 1: Discovery + Assessment

Focus on people and systems analysis


Program Kick-Off and Introduction

Pre-Game Kick-Off to introduce TAOS to players, teams, PDMs, staff, and other stakeholders such as referees or sports health supports. Pre-Game Kick-Off will provide players and stakeholders with information and background on TAOS’ support to players and consultation to the sports organization. During the kickoff, the vision and desired outcomes of the program will be shared.

Data Collection, Focus Groups & Interviews

With the information collected from the & Environmental Scan, TAOS partners with the organization to conduct focus groups with players and staff and a mixed-methodologies data collection project. Data is collected through both qualitative and quantitative methods, through anonymous surveys, focus groups, and 1×1 sessions with players upon request. All data collected will be used to audit the current environment. A redacted, anonymized report with data collected will be provided. Every data collection method will have full transparency provided to players prior to participation and will be structured off of informed consent. Transparency includes individual meetings with and full protocol information provided to all players under the age of 18 to discuss mandated reporting protocols. Players have the option to participate with anonymity, including from the TAOS team, in virtual sessions. Players will also have the right to participate and later request their information be anonymized prior to submission to teams and the league. Focus groups are hosted as pre-meeting sessions to build rapport and trust with players and to identify what the players need from the TAOS in order to be able to conduct effective services. In addition, focus groups are often used to capture large themes that can be explored deeper into during in person sessions. These themes include, but are not limited to:
  • Where are we on this journey? (Readiness to move forward, sitting with it, unsure)
  • How have we (as players) been impacted? (Short- mid-long- term)
  • What has changed? (Good, bad, unsure)
  • What are the non-negotiables? (Must haves, things that cannot happen again)
  • How do we move forward? (Outside of policies, what is needed to build back trust and safety between players and the league)
  • How can the sports organization better support you?
Focus groups should be set up as an effort to move toward the future while acknowledging the failures, learnings, and efforts of the present. These sessions determine the needs of the players to inform the next steps of the processes. All processes following this step are conducted entirely based on what is directly learned from the players.

Virtual Player Drop-In Sessions and Expectation Setting

TAOS prepares and facilitates 90-minute to 2-hour virtual conversations where the process of athlete and athlete survivor feedback is shared as well as expected feedback loop processes. Virtual Player Drop-In Sessions are held to accommodate any current needs and to provide support to players will allow space for players and staff to ask questions about our work, disclose abuse, and discuss the current climate in a trauma-informed place until TAOS staff can be on-site if part of the initiative. As part of the trauma-informed approach, these sessions and direct support for players provides for full transparency, allows for expectation setting, and serves as another mechanism for survivor support and connection to resources. Players are asked to register pre-session to ensure that only current and recently transferred or retired players are allowed into the session. TAOS keeps the names, team affiliation, or any other identifiers of registrants anonymous and will never be provided to anyone outside of the TAOS team. TAOS will share information prior to each session on how to log in anonymously if players prefer to be anonymous throughout the meeting. TAOS will cap all drop-in sessions to 50 people maximum to register for each session. TAOS will keep track of a waiting list in order to determine if more than three sessions are needed. TAOS will provide the name, photo, and background of the TAOS facilitators to players pre-registration.

For any players that do not feel comfortable attending a group drop-in session, TAOS offers 1×1 virtual drop-in sessions for those that prefer to share individually with a TAOS team member.

TAOS shares what to expect during the meeting and resources available for support such as a mental health safety plan. Every listening session with players includes at least one facilitator and an additional support person that is available to enter a break out room with participants should a player experience a trauma response and need someone to process the trauma with them. TAOS will provide resources for therapy and support to the player’s local area.

Policy Scan

TAOS partners with the sports organization to conduct a full policy scan of existing anti-harassment policies, structures for investigation when abuse is reported, and response protocols. TAOS begins reviewing policies beginning with the league/sport/system-wide minimum standard and will then partner with each individual team to support each team’s specific policies and make recommendations for trauma-informed change.

Phase 2: Training and Support Development

Focus on building tools needed for transitioning to trauma-informed environment


Identify Program Game Plan

TAOS develops a program game plan from the information gathered from the players and the Discovery + Assessment Phase. The game plan summarizes and shares learnings from each session as well as the report itself, with recommendations on immediate next steps. Identifying information that contributed to the learnings will be kept confidential and will not indicate individual names, teams, or experiences.

In addition to a written game plan, players have continued access to TAOS staff for support within the organization and for ongoing advocacy. For example: Given the likelihood that throughout focus groups and training, players will decide to disclose abuse that has not yet been actioned, TAOS staff will be available to support these players. TAOS team members will offer short-term, trauma-informed crisis response support, but will not be available for long-term therapy if the player chooses such. However, TAOS will provide resources for accessing trauma therapists. Another important element to a disclosure like this is ensuring documentation to record evidence to minimize the number of times a player will have to repeat their experience. TAOS will liaise with the entity to ensure a smooth transition into the legal advice that should then be provided.

Trauma-Informed Basics Training for Staff and Others

TAOS provides adapted and tailored trauma-informed training for organization staff and key stakeholders in the organizational environment. This includes a multi-dose series of sessions that can be in-person or virtual depending on the system needs. Participants will learn the basics of the impact of trauma and best practices for recognizing trauma, responding to those trauma impacts, and preventing re-traumatization within systems. Training sessions are recommended to be 3-hours each, but may be tailored to meet the organization’s specific needs.

Virtual Media Training with Survivors

TAOS provides training to support players in responding to media inquiries, discussing how to set boundaries, and navigating trauma surrounding trauma reminders during and following media interviews. TAOS’ media training has been developed by athlete survivors and in partnership with sports media experts. This training is recommended to be adapted to the needs and gaps identified in the Discovery + Assessment Phase.

Virtual Media Training for Media

TAOS provides training to media members covering the sports organization’s competitions with information on how to conduct interviews in a trauma-informed manner. TAOS conveys the needs of players to the media and ensures that the media is equipped with the skills necessary to conduct trauma-informed interviews that prioritize athlete safety and wellness.

Training & Technical Assistance Plan

TAOS develops a Training & Technical Assistance (TTA) Plan from Discovery + Assessment Phase. The Plan will outline the training tools, multiple dose strategy, and supplemental recommendations for trauma-informed systems change. All TTA will be developed directly from the needs identified by the players and will work to provide education and support to coaches and front office staff to protect player wellbeing and to create trauma-informed workplaces for everyone.

Phase 3: Implementation for Culture Change + Community Building

Focus on putting the recommendations to action in shifting culture and building an athlete and athlete-survivor focused system


Implementation Strategy for the TTA Plan

TAOS will develop a timeline and strategy for phased implementation of the recommendations/TTA plan developed in previous phases.

On-site Listening Sessions and TTA with Players on TAOS-specific content

TAOS will conduct in person Listening Sessions with players at each team facility. TAOS acknowledges and provides support around the understanding that the environment and abuse is not new for players, but possibly publicity of the abuse can be heavy to navigate through a season. TAOS holds space for players to discuss the impact of the publicity of the reports, navigating relationships and safety in the organization, identifying what is necessary to feel safe, and providing the foundation and direction for the restructuring of the organization. The main purpose of on-site Listening Sessions is to provide direct support to players, build relationships between players and the TAOS team, and ensure players know the project is not short term crisis work, but to discuss the necessary sustainability that will lead into Phase III of Culture + Community Building.

Trauma-informed Resources & Education on the Intersection of Abuse & Sports

TAOS will develop resource materials and provide tailored TTA on said materials specific to league and institution. Materials and TTA will be made available to players, coaches, and staff. Content may include, but not limited to: the prevalence and dynamics of abuse in sports, unpacking types and identifiers of abuse, how to provide support following disclosures of abuse, the athlete-specific Power & Control Wheel, Trauma Informed Approach resources, trauma-informed reporting processes, understanding stigma and delay in reporting, boundary setting, self-care guides, mental health resources including those provided by the sports organization, grooming behaviors, power and control tactics and coercive control strategies, mental health safety plans, trauma 101, creating and sustaining trauma-Informed environments, defining consent beyond “No Means No,” surviving workplace violence in sports, trauma informed response to disclosures of abuse, and a how to guide to supporting an athlete survivor/whistleblower disclosing abuse.

Best practice guidelines for creating a trauma-informed, athlete-centered environment wherein survivors and whistleblowers do not fear punishment or retaliation after reporting, how athletes and staff can support survivors in a healthy way, and how to promote healing and resiliency will also be explored.

Consult on Implementation and Trauma-Informed Policies and Procedures

TAOS provides consulting on specific actionable steps to co-create trauma-informed best practices on policies and procedures for athlete safeguarding. All recommendations are dependent upon what is learned from Listening Sessions and will be athlete survivor guided. Best practices will be provided to each local team when relevant with location specific resources and a generalized best practice policies will be provided.

Creation of and Connection to Crisis Supports

TAOS will support organizations in identifying existing structures and supports that are missing to create a crisis response plan for athletes that have experienced abuse. Through partnering with sports organizations, local resources, and national experts, TAOS will support in building a customized crisis response that provides referral sources to mental health support, advocacy support, and resource identification to support players when they need support.

Responding to Disclosures Training

An in depth training that prepares Player Development Managers, Chaplains, and other player support staff to better understand how to respond when an athlete discloses abuse to them. This training will utilize the UNI Global Union Ready to Respond handbook as the foundation and expand further on trauma-informed responses to disclosures. This training will discuss identifying local resources, unpacking policies unique to each PDMs league and institution, and help identify how to create a roadmap of support checklist to navigate for the PDM and player based on the self-identified needs and consent of the athlete in order to do the least amount of harm to the athlete through the reporting process. Additionally, this training will navigate conversations around whistleblowing, protection of self as a PDM when speaking up, and how to prepare and navigate institutional betrayal following a report or whistleblowing.

Athlete Education on Abuse & Trauma

A training specifically for current athletes that discusses how to protect yourself from your current or former league through a reporting process and how to utilize Players Associations. Content will be customized to each audience to include information specific to the PAs represented and will unpack toxic work and sports cultures that associate shame with openly discussing mental health, trauma, self harm, and abuse. This training will educate athletes and unpack the social construction of gender and how white supremacy, capitalism, heterocissexism, and patriarchal norms and expectations harm everyone.

Player-to-Coach Transition Support

TAOS develops training and support for players that are transitioning to coaching roles regarding subjects such as relationship evolution, boundary setting, and support in role adjustment. These topics are considered and adjustments made dependent upon what we learn in Virtual Drop-In Sessions and Listening Sessions. TAOS will help ensure that those moving from player to coach are trained on navigating boundaries and power dynamics within their new role through the evaluation of the organization’s current training certification process for coaches, trainers, PDMs, and staff. Through this evaluation, TAOS identifies areas for improvement and provides recommendations. All training for coaches is scenario-based and oriented toward skills building and TAOS provides support to new coaches due to the high likelihood that once exposed to this information they may realize they themselves have experienced trauma and/or grooming as a player. In every room there are survivors, perpetrators, and witnesses. The TAOS team is skilled at navigating this dynamic and providing information and support.

Data-to-Action and Evaluation Feedback

TAOS develops a system for ongoing evaluation and feedback of culture change efforts in the system. TAOS is dedicated to creating sustainable feedback loops for improved services and adaptable systems change. This can look like a collection of anonymous surveys’ annual interviews, and other forms of stakeholder feedback. The system for evaluation would provide for an accessible data-to-action plan to incorporate feedback into training and policies.

*Please note: All recommended activities will be dependent on the finding of the Discovery
+ Assessment Phase 1 and can be modified depending on the resources available.

What Do We Mean By Trauma-Informed?

Applying a trauma-informed framework to any engagement with athlete survivors is rooted in the understanding of the pervasiveness and impact of trauma with the goal of mitigating the effects of trauma including minimizing re-traumatization; supporting healing, resilience, and well-being; and, attending to the impact of trauma organizationally.

A trauma informed approach is grounded in a person’s history, acknowledging the entire context of their experience. It starts from a place of assuming a person has experienced trauma and shifts the conversation from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Being trauma-informed is a philosophy and a skill set. Its underlying philosophy is grounded in grassroots and survivor-centered models that came from the early rape crisis center and domestic violence movements.

Organizations that use trauma informed approaches are strengths-based, look at the effects from all forms of trauma, and are multi dimensional in their approaches.

In order to transform a culture where power over athletes is not prioritized and instead athletes and athlete survivors are in fact centered, organizations have to commit to creating an environment where the entire organization centers athletes and is committed to being trauma informed. This includes not only those individuals working on the safe sport entity, but everyone from the top down at each sports organization engaging in the process committing to creating a trauma-informed environment where fear of disclosing abuse for fear of punishment, either by survivors or whistleblowers isn’t commonplace as it is now. If this doesn’t happen athletes will not feel safe to share. Promoting safety and building trust is a key element to working with athlete survivors of sexual assault in sport.