By Matt Berglund
Coaches can have a significant impact on the lives of young people. In addition to conversations on the court, field or mat, we have dealt with the complexity of relationships through honest discussions. Instead of just talking about how we should our treat our opponents with respect and dignity, we discussed how we should treat the women in our lives that way as well.
The Grand Forks (North Dakota) Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) is partnering with coaches in the area for a violence-prevention program called “Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM),” which equips coaches with lessons to help their young athletes build respectful, non-violent relationships by teaching about respect for women and girls, and that violence does not equal strength.
Several coaches in the area, including most of the head coaches for boys sports at Grand Forks Central High School (GFCHS), are participating in the program. It is completely voluntary, but football coach Bill Lorenz, boys hockey coach Tony Bina, boys swimming and diving coach Brent Newman, boys basketball coach Dan Carlson and baseball coach Kyle Beckstead have joined me in implementing the CBIM program this school year at GFCHS.
Quite often, young men do not have positive male influences in their lives, but in many instances, a considerate coach can fill this role. The primary goal of the Coaching Boys into Men program is for the participants involved to evaluate who they are now, who they want to be and ultimately choose the type of man they want to become.
Former Central head football coach Mike Berg is serving as the primary facilitator between the CVIC and the coaches involved with the program in our area.
“The program is designed for coaches to teach male athletes about the importance of respect for themselves and for others – particularly women and girls,” Berg said. “The intent of the program is to help build healthy relationships and prevent violence. Coaches have a unique relationship with their athletes, and unquestionably see and hear things that other adults do not. They have numerous opportunities to teach young men that violence and abuse have no place in their relationships. I think they sometimes forget the influence they hold and the responsibility they have to be positive role models.”
The Coaching Boys into Men program began in the year 2000 as a media campaign to encourage men to teach boys to respect women. The success of this media campaign, and the influence of athletic coaches in the lives of boys and young men, led to the creation of a sports-based violence prevention tool – the Coaching Boys into Men playbook. The CBIM playbook was created in 2004 with counsel from coaches of the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. This playbook uses "coaching" as a metaphor to engage athletic coaches to help shape the attitudes and behaviors of their young male athletes.
In 2008, Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, used the principles of the Playbook – respect, integrity and non-violence – to create an expanded curriculum for coaches: the Coaching Boys into Men Coaches Kit. Created with the advice from the National High School Athletic Coaches Association and coaches across the country who have used the CBIM Playbook with their athletes, the CBIM Coaches Kit is a complete set of tools that coaches can easily use throughout the athletic season to help their athletes build respectful relationships and prevent violence.
Most recently, the CBIM playbook and coaches kit have been part of a school-based pilot of the CBIM Coaches Leadership Program. This pilot is currently being evaluated to optimize the program and create a model for coaches and schools across the country.
The feedback that has been collected by Berg from coaches involved in the program has been very positive. They all have had excellent discussions with their athletes and have expressed their strong interest in continuing the program.
“A coach experiences teachable moments with their players that can reemphasize the importance of possessing quality life skills as an athlete,” Bina said. ‘I want my student-athletes to develop the confidence and moral decision-making skills that will allow them to be role models in society in how they respect women and girls.”
The response from athletes has also been very positive. “I enjoyed it a lot. Besides being a good learning experience, it was also a very good team bonding experience," said Central High School junior Garrett Litzinger, a member of the high school football and wrestling teams.
Most of the coaches who implemented the program this year set aside about 10 minutes each week to have a “Coaching Boys into Men” discussion. Each coach is provided with a packet with discussion points, teachable moments, hypothetical situations, messages and other information that covers a 12-week timeframe and concludes with a pledge to be violence-free. Often the lessons contained topics that were very serious, but neither the athletes nor coaches shied away from the sensitive subject matter.
This season I was able take discussions with my team to a different level through the “Coaching Boys Into Men” program. The conversations I had during the sessions allowed my athletes to see me in a different light and see what I hold in higher regard than wins and losses. For me and many other coaches I know, it’s the type of men we hope our young athletes will become once they leave our program: good husbands and fathers, respected employees and leaders.
Beckstead had a similar take: “I think we as coaches forget the influence we actually have on our players. Most trust their coach and what they have to say. I think players will be more likely to be open and honest with a program like this. We as coaches also see our student-athletes in a different setting than their parents do. We have a chance to get through to these kids in a different way,” he said.
Many coaches across the country schedule their practice sessions down to the minute, and the thought of setting aside 10 minutes a week for one more thing might cause some to dismiss the CBIM program. Berg, who was honored as the 2007 NFL high school football coach of the year, believes those with this view are missing out on a huge opportunity to create a lasting impact.
“If all we teach our athletes how to do is play a game, we have failed them big time. Coaches need to be mentors beyond the game itself; our young people – males and females alike – need and deserve it. It costs nothing to take 15 minutes per week; how can it not fit into a program?” Berg said.
“Coaching Boys Into Men” was brought to my community by the Safer Tomorrows project led by the City of Grand Forks, the CVIC, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and Grand Forks Public Schools, along with 40 other local partners. The Coaching Boys Into Men program is part of the national Futures Without Violence initiative. For more information about the program, go to http://www.coachescorner.org/
About the Author: Matt Berglund is an English teacher and the head wrestling coach at Grand Forks Central High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Berglund also is the yearbook and newspaper adviser at GFC and a member of the NFHS Coaches Publications Committee.