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BOONE, Iowa — Sports like football have become a “hot button” issue because of it’s aggressive on field violence.  It is the violence in dating off the field on a national scene from teenage males that has worried Iowa high school athletic directors like West Des Moines Valley’s Brad Rose.  “I see boys having struggles with their anger, how do you deal with frustration, how do you deal with rejection?”

So The University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention and the Iowa High School Athletic Association have launched program called Coaching Boys Into Men.  “It’s a leadership program that teaches young people how to be responsible and hold your fellow teammates responsible and coaches to interact with players on those issue,” said IHSAA Assistant Director Chad Elsberry.

The free and voluntary program trains coaches with high school and youth athletes in all sports for two hours on how to approach subjects ranging from gender violence to bullying and hazing.  UNI Center for Violence Prevention Director Alan Heisterkamp said, “Introducing and having these 15-20 minute conversations throughout the course of a season, for example once a week, at a team meeting or could be the night before the game.”

The workshop provides play cards to help coaches with speaking points on violence prevention with their student-athletes and how to spot it in situations like locker room talk or bus rides.  Elsberry said, “Violence usually begins with verbal at one end and ends on the other end with physical and sexual violence.”

A 2017 CDC survey says nearly 11% of female teens experienced physical dating violence in the last year.  that number is over double the 3.9% of high school girl volleyball players the NCAA says will play the sport at the next level.  “If you start working with those young people in terms of language and words and that they do have meaning and impact on their community and fellow teammates and fellow classmates, it can make a big difference,” said Elsberry.

An impact that goes well beyond the scoreboard.  “One coach can make a difference but many coaches, I think can change the culture of our schools, the culture of our system,” said Cedar Falls High School wrestling coach Chad Van Cleve.

The CDC also says 1 out of 13 male teens reported experiencing physical dating violence in the last year.  The next Coaching Boys into Men training workshops are: September 19 from 3pm-5pm at the Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines.  October 17 from 3pm-5pm at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in Waterloo.  October 24 from 3pm-5pm at the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa.