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Coaches in GF working to end violence

Visualize this: A coach gathers up the young men on the team to talk strategy. Everyone is paying attention, there's no music or other distractions. Something important is about to happen.

We're all familiar with the scenario; when a coach talks, the players listen.

What is said in the next few minutes may make all the difference tonight, but it has nothing to do with a game. Tonight's meeting, just sitting in the locker room after practice, will last about 15 minutes, and it's one of several the coach will hold with his team this season.

So, what's the discussion about? What's the strategy?

It's about:

• Personal responsibility, being accountable.

• Degrading words and language.

• Disrespectful behavior.

• Social media, digital disrespect.

• Understanding consent, respecting personal boundaries.

• Damaging reputations, spreading rumors.

• Responsibilities of physical strength.

• Competitive vs. inappropriate aggression.

• Relationships, violent and abusive behavior.

• Modeling behavior, confronting inappropriate actions.

Coaches who are willing to look beyond the scoreboard can help the young men on their teams learn how to build healthy and respectful relationships, and empower them with the confidence and language to respond to inappropriate situations. They can identify teachable moments and teach them about respectful behavior.

Who knows? Perhaps a situation like the one that occurred last fall at the University of Minnesota is less likely when young men have been mentored and influenced by adults who they respect, coaches who bring substance to their programs.

The good news for residents of Grand Forks County is that the school administrators and coaches of male sports already have on hand, materials that will help them lead discussions about the topics above for a commitment of only 15 minutes per week. It's called Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM), and it's been in place for nearly six years in our communities. While some have yet to get on board, a number of coaches have chosen to implement the program, and are well on the way to changing a culture.

Ideally these values are being taught at home, and in many cases that's happening, but not everywhere. Do you have a daughter or granddaughter who is in a relationship with a young man? If so, wouldn't it be a good thing to have someone in that young man's life; a parent, a mentor, a coach teaching him what honorable and respectful behavior is all about? Although important lessons can be learned on playing fields, what happens in competition doesn't necessarily translate to real life. Programs like CBIM put coaches in positions that allow them to directly influence attitudes about and behavior toward others.

It should be noted that a parallel program for female athletes is in development.