Chuck Derry, director of the Gender Violence Institute in Clearwater Minnesota, USA and founding member of the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN) and a MenEngage Global Alliance board member, recently completed “Coaching For Change” an online training for boys’ and girls’ high school and community athletic coaches. This training assists coaches in imbedding primary prevention strategies which support gender equity and intervene on behaviors which support the social normalization of violence against women and girls.

Chuck developed this training in partnership with Ed Heisler from Men As Peacemakers in Duluth Minnesota, Donna McDonald from the Domestic/Sexual Violence Coalition of Anoka County, Minnesota, and Jody Redman, Associate Director of the Minnesota State High School League. This training is free and available on the Minnesota Men’s Action Network website.

Coaching For Change provides coaches of boys and girls athletics the information and skills necessary to understand the prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment, teen dating violence and domestic violence that their young athletes are experiencing. It then explores the social norms and messaging which contribute to this environment of harm and the courageous conversations and teaching moments coaches can utilize to positively influence both boys and girls and create a team environment which supports gender equity and respect.

The high school version of this training was released by the Minnesota State High School League in August 2014 and is now a mandated training for all Minnesota state high school coaches (25,000 coaches).

A parallel Coaching For Change training for coaches involved with community athletics programs was released in April of this year. This training focuses on coaches who are instructing 10 to 14 year old children and utilizes interactive scenarios and skills development related to that age group and the community athletics environment.

Both trainings take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The first 10 minutes of each training is very similar. The differences begin to appear as we reach the interactive scenarios and proactive instructions for coaches to build the team culture of gender equity and mutual respect. Those scenarios and planning steps relate specifically to the high school or community athletics environment in which the coach is working with her or his team.

Coaches also learn to recognize the “red flags” that some young people might exhibit which could indicate their exposure to abusive behavior at home, or in their relationships. Coaches are provided guidance on how best to respond if concerns are raised or young athletes begin to disclose incidences of abuse. In this way, coaches can appropriately attend to their individual and institutional responsibilities for respecting children and keeping them safe. In incidences where harm has occurred, even one adult providing caring support, and appropriate referrals, can dramatically increase that child’s ability to heal from the trauma as they grow.

The Coaching for Change training is free and available for use. We can also make use agreements with individual community athletics organizations or regional networks who are interested in incorporating the training into their organizational practices and posting it on their websites. For more information, contact Chuck Derry at gvi@frontiernet.net.

Lastly, Coaching For Change is housed on the Men As Peacemakers website which includes their IMPACT program which moves community athletics into the next level of organizational practice change which supports the goals and objectives of the training. Technical assistance and training is available.

Athletics has a profound influence on boys and girls, and our culture. Many grownups site their coaches as the most significant adult influence in their childhood lives, second only to their mothers and/or fathers. Coaching For Change helps coaches to understand and implement team strategies which will influence the lives of our children and support young athletes as they develop the character and understanding necessary to lead successful and happy lives.

For more about Coaching for Change, see Coaching For Change: Promoting safe, healthy, and equitable relationships.