PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A new UPMC study said coaches can help prevent sexual violence and promote healthy relationships for young men. It found the close relationships forged in sports could be a perfect platform for the young men.

Can you imagine locker room talk that involves respect and stopping violence against women,” UPMC Children’s Hospital Director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine Dr. Elizabeth Miller said. “That’s pretty awesome.”

She found coaches could be impactful at the high school level and wanted to see what would happen at the middle school level, but she was skeptical it would work with the younger boy athletes.

“The coaches don’t have the same intense relationship with their athletes that we see on high school varsity teams,” Dr. Miller said in her Oakland office.

She took a look at 41 middle schools in our area. Half were involved in a program that encourages coaches to talk to the boys about stopping dating violence and sexual assault. The other half were not.

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape runs the Coaching Boys Into Men program for parts of our area.

“The program is wonderfully doing everything that it was intended to do,” PAAR Executive Director Alison Hall said. “3 It’s a great way to demystify the conversations around sexual violence.”

They have had the program in the area mainly with high schools for about 6 years. In all they have worked with 70 teams and about 2,400 athletes.

Dr. Miller found if a student was in the program they were more likely to intervene and hold other students accountable for disrespectful behavior, and the young men were 76% less likely to abuse their dating partner.

“Coaches who we don’t necessarily think of traditionally doing violence prevention, in fact, are well positioned,” she told KDKA.

She said coaches become role models when an athlete is at the age where they start to push away from their parents.

“Young people are not necessarily expecting their coach to bring up these issues,” Dr. Miller said. “When the coach does, they’re like this is really interesting.”

Both Dr. Miller and Hall would like to see every team at every school have this program.

Dr. Miller said this is only a partial solution to solving the issue, and there are other programs to help young women.

If you’re a coach and you want to learn more about the Coaching Boys Into Men Program, click here.

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