Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt has held steady life-focused meetings with his players in recent months.
There have been meetings about drugs, alcohol and respecting women, many of which took place through the summer months.
On Monday, speaker Rachel Baribeau came to Knoxville to talk to the Vols, and part of her message pertained to how to treat women.
“I think it had a big impact on us,” linebacker Darrell Taylor said. “It shows us how to be more respectful to women and how to stand up for women and how to take care of women on an everyday basis.”
Baribeau, who also works as an ESPN radio personality, is the founder of Changing The Narrative.
She travels to college campuses to speak to student-athletes, sharing messages centered on three principles: purpose, passion and platform. She also makes a point to discuss how to treat women, which led to her appearance as the latest speaker in Tennessee preseason practices.
“That’s important to us. It’s important to our society,” Pruitt said. “I know Rachel. She spoke at a place I was at before. I think she does a really good job. Every night (during camp), we bring in speakers, whether it’s about being a leader or being a good teammate.
“She did a really good job the other day, and we’ve had a lot of good speakers this fall camp.”
Pruitt dismissed redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Thaxton after an arrest on charges of domestic assault and false imprisonment in July. The first-year UT coach said at SEC Media Days the Vols are “not going to tolerate” violence against women.
Junior offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy previously heard Baribeau speak during his time at Alabama – the visit Pruitt alluded to. Kennedy said much of the message remained consistent, while saying it remains relevant and key.
“It’s very important to create a great atmosphere in the locker room,” Kennedy said. “You don’t want any bad things. So that was good from Rachel.”
Baribeau’s focus also is on the players becoming well-rounded men in society. She likes to call them to be “kings” and conduct themselves accordingly.
Part of that means a sense of accountability among a team, which long snapper Riley Lovingood pointed to as the most important part of the message for him. The junior hopes that leads to the Vols staying on track both on and off the field.
“We really just focus on us and what we control here,” Lovingood said. “If I keep my brother next to me and beside me accountable – and we are all doing that across the line – then we shouldn’t have any worries about that. That’s the culture we are creating here with Coach Pruitt.”
By Mike Wilson
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Jeremy Pruitt brought in a special guest speaker this week to educate his Tennessee football on team on respecting women.
ESPN radio host Rachel Baribeau talked to the team Monday about purpose, passion and platform – as well as how to treat women.
Baribeau is the founder of the “Changing the Narrative” platform, which seeks to mentor young athletes to go against the trend of negative news stories and poor decisions made by football players.
“It’s important to us, it’s important to our society,” Pruitt said Thursday. “I know Rachel. She spoke at a place I was at before. She does a really good job.”
Pruitt said he’s met with the team once per month since he’s been on Rocky Top to discuss responsibility when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and respecting women. Players took a wellness test during the summer and met once a week.
Baribeau’s “Changing the Narrative” Twitter account tweeted out after Monday’s meeting: “Many of these guys are dying for the world to know they are more than just football players.
“They are Kings who are going to use their platform to change the world around them!” she continued.
Redshirt junior long snapper Riley Lovingood said the main message he gained from the talk was one of accountability.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about any individual, it’s about the team,” Lovingood said. “I thought Miss Rachel was a great speaker.
“She made a huge impact on our team, each player,” Lovingood continued. “The time we get to know that it’s not about each individual person, but about each other and accountability, that’s when our team will really strive.”
If all goes well, and the Vols can challenge each other to be better men off the field, it will make them even more excited to compete on it during practice.
And Lovingood likes the makeup of the team so far.
“You got guys competing four or five deep at each position,” Lovingood said. “Then you’ll have the best guys starting on Saturdays. That’s what we want as a team. That’s what I think everyone wants.”
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KNOXVILLE — First-year coach Jeremy Pruitt has plenty of work to do to get Tennessee back on track within the SEC, but that doesn’t mean he is sticking to football during fall camp.
Pruitt this week invited ESPNU radio personality Rachel Baribeau to speak to the team about how to treat women. Baribeau has spoken to more than 25 college football teams as part of her #ChangingTheNarrative Campaign that focuses on four core aspects.
Her points of emphasis include urging the players to take back the headlines of college football and to use their platform to make a difference.
During each speech she shares her own story in which she was the victim of domestic violence.
College coaches have made a habit of inviting women like Baribeau and sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy to speak to their teams in an attempt to raise awareness about the problematic trends plaguing the sport.
The subject hit home at Tennessee last month when linebacker Ryan Thaxton was kicked off the team following his arrest on charges of false imprisonment and domestic assault of his girlfriend.
Days before Thaxton was kicked off the team, Pruitt told reporters at SEC Media Days in Atlanta that he would not ‘condone’ or ‘tolerate’ violence against women.
Baribeau’s visit with Tennessee was part of a series of monthly meetings players and staff go through that discuss drugs, alcohol and how to treat women. During the summer, they took a wellness class once a week.
“That’s important to us,” Pruitt said Thursday. “It’s important to our society. I know Rachel. She spoke at a place I was at before, and I think she does a really good job.”
Baribeau’s speeches are welcome because there seems to be yearly and sometimes even monthly instances in which college football players make headlines for the wrong reasons.
In 2014, Oklahoma suspended running back Joe Mixon for the season after he punched a woman and fractured four bones in her face.
In 2015, Florida State dismissed quarterback De’Andre Johnson after he punched a woman at a bar.
Last week, Ohio State placed coach Urban Meyer on administrative leave after a report alleged that he knew about domestic violence allegations against an assistant coach but allowed him to remain on the staff.
The list of other incidents is extensive.
Vol linebacker Darrell Taylor said Baribeau’s speech showed the players how to be more respectful toward women, how to stand up for them and how to take care of them on a daily basis.
Long snapper Riley Lovingood said one of the highlights from Baribeau’s speech to the Vols was that it is important to consider how one person’s actions can affect the team.
That likely didn’t happen with Mixon, with Johnson or at Baylor. Though the Tennessee players see what happens throughout the country, Lovingood said all they can do is focus on what happens within their team.
“If I keep my brother next to me accountable, and we’re all doing that across the line, then we shouldn’t have any worries with that,” Lovingood said. “That’s the culture we’re creating here with coach Pruitt.”
By Corey Roepken
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Tennessee is among more than 30 schools to invite sportscaster Rachel Baribeau to speak to its football team.
Rachel has started an initiative called “Changing the Narrative”, and she’s spoken to young athletes at schools like Clemson, Alabama, Oregon and most recently, Tennessee.
“Really we talk about purpose, passion, platform,” said Baribeau. How do you view women and how do you treat women. And, in the past two years in 31 schools, we’ve added stuff about masculinity and about how it’s actually wonderfully masculine and strong to admit that you’re struggling with something.
“You talk about stereotypes and how they are being stereotyped, how do they feel marginalized. They tell me they feel people call them stupid, entitled, dumb, spoiled, selfish and so we talk about how we challenge those stereotypes.”
Baribeau originally intended to visit high schools, but an opportunity opened for her to speak at Texas A&M, and the movement quickly spread. Now, it’s her mission to train athletes to go into high schools so they too can serve.
“A little small idea that I had, God turned it into something bigger than I could have ever imagined.”
The University of Tennessee has already invited Baribeau back to speak to some of the women’s programs and to work more with the football team.
“There’s a lot of guys there that said yes, I want you to teach me public speaking, I want to go into area high schools, I want to go into my high school at home. I want to take this platform and something with it.”
The responses that Baribeau has received from athletes has been overwhelming.
“I had this guy last night stand in front of me and I’ll forever remember it. He had tears in his eyes and I had tears in my eyes and he said, Miss Rachel, where I come from, nobody has ever told me that I have worth outside of football. Nobody’s every really told me that I can be something beyond a football player. He said Thank you for reminding me that I have worth outside of what I do on the football field. That one got me.”
By Chierstin Susel
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