September 2, 2019
Rachel Baribeau was standing in front of dozens of Maryland football players who were all eager to speak with her. She had done her talking; it was now time to listen.
It’s a normal occurrence for the SiriusXM College host and assault survivor to have as many as 50 players talk to her personally about what they’re doing to become better people, or kings, as Baribeau likes to put it, after she speaks with them about a wide range of topics ranging from sexual assault to domestic violence.
That was the same case when she visited the Terps.
“[Head coach] Mike Locksley called me … and he said we want to get you here, let’s figure it out, we must do this,” Baribeau said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 22.
In the wake of the Baylor University sexual assault scandal in 2016, Baribeau revealed in an essay about a broken culture in college football that she was an assault survivor. She has told of an instance when she and several other couples were together when the man she was dating became angry.
“He dragged me from one end of the house to the other by my hair,” she said to a team last year. “I screamed bloody murder and no one came to help. Three men, and none of them [helped].”
Since then, she has visited campuses as an advocate for assault survivors and spoken to college football players about how they can become better people.
“It really is so much more than domestic violence,” Baribeau said on GCR. “My message is a holistic approach to the whole man or woman. We talk about purpose, passion, platform, how we view and treat women.”
Like much of the sports world, Baribeau is all too familiar with the hardships Maryland players have experienced the past 18 months with the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died two weeks after suffering heatstroke during a team workout last spring. She normally talks with head coaches beforehand to make the conversation a little more personal for each team, and while she didn’t touch on the McNair tragedy much, she still did so in a way that seemed appropriate to her.
“There was one particular moment where I said to them the world was watching, and they watched how you conducted your business,” Baribeau said. “They watched what you endured. They watched you come together. They watched you play in his honor. They watched you. I said I and the rest of the world watched you come together as a team, and it was beautiful.”
There are usually a few different types of players when Baribeau comes to speak to a team. There are the players who are tired or the ones who say they have heard her story before. But by the time she is finished, they are all captivated by what she has to say.
That isn’t what keeps her going, though. Rather, it’s the moments after when the players speak to her that make it truly worthwhile.
“They tell me about their life, they tell me about their heartbreak,” Baribeau said. “They tell me about the things they’re going to do with their lives and … how they were going to be a king. If the after-effect and relationships and connection wasn’t there, I would have quit a long time ago.”
Baribeau encourages having a safe space for players to talk about anything; she puts up her Twitter handle after every visit and usually “about 50 to 60” players follow her right after she’s done. But more importantly, she and the coaches understand these players need an open line of communication in order to be better people, both on and off the field.
“A guy like Coach Locksley gets it,” Baribeau said. “If you’ve got a guy who’s not carrying burdens while he’s playing football and practicing, then he going to be a better football player. Period. End of story. The whole aspect of mental health is so, so big and something I’ve been really focusing on for the last year and a half when I recognized how broken these young men are.”