Sports trainers recruited to help stop partner violence

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, January 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) – The so-called "costume talk" among boys can actually be used to promote respect for girls, a new study reports.

Teenagers are less likely to be abusive or sexually violent in a relationship after having participated in Coaching Boys Into Men, a prevention program taught by sports coaches as part of sports training, based on research results.

The researchers found that they are also more likely to intervene if they see that someone is disrespectful to others.

"Athletic coaches are important mentors and role models for their young athletes," said lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Miller. "This program takes advantage of the important role of coaches as key adult allies and powerful messengers to prevent violence against women."

The program was developed in the mid-2000s with the non-profit group Futures without violence, said Miller, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of medicine for adolescents and young adults at UPMC Children & # 39; s Pittsburgh Hospital. This is the latest evidence from clinical trials that shows the effectiveness of the program in preventing abuse and sexism.

In the program, coaches complete a "training card" a week with their team for three months.

The cards offer a scripted discussion that lasts about 15 minutes, addressing issues such as disrespectful and harmful behavior among peers, myths that glorify male sexual assault and positive ways of interceding when witnessing aggressive behavior towards girls.

"The children are ready to do what their coach says," said Kathryn Laughon, associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. "A coach is often an authority figure and has true respect and is really creating a small community in a way that has historically been toxic. This helps to take that energy and turn it into something positive."

In 2018 alone, the program had 283 trainers. Those coaches spoke with more than 1,800 athletes in 63 teams in 31 schools and three community programs in southwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers said.

In this study, 973 male athletes participated in 41 middle schools in Pennsylvania. Half of the schools were randomly selected to participate in the program. The study was conducted between spring 2015 and fall 2017, including a sports season and a year of follow-up.


At the end of the sports season, children in the program were 50% more likely to intervene if they saw that a partner was disrespectful to others, the researchers found.

This effect persisted during the following year. Male athletes were more than twice as likely to report positive spectator behaviors one year after the conclusion of the program than male athletes in schools that did not participate in the program.

Athletes were also more likely to recognize abusive behaviors and better understand their own attitudes related to gender equity: the idea that boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect, the authors said.

About two thirds of the group had ever left. Among them, children who participated in the program were 76% less likely to abuse or sexual violence in their appointments, compared to those who did not participate.

The findings were published on January 13 in JAMA Pediatrics.

"I think the main conclusions are that violence against women and girls can be prevented, and a direct program like Coaching Boys Into Men is not only effective for male high school and high school athletes, but can be extended and widely implemented. ". Miller said.

Laughon, who co-authored an editorial with the study, said it was great that the research specifically evaluated the self-reported actions of boys towards and in defense of girls.

"Many studies analyze intentions and attitudes. This is really reaching the heart of what really matters," he said.

For this to make a wider difference, said Laughon, it would be great to have the institutional acceptance of school boards and sports directors that would require the participation of all coaches.

"It would be tremendous if school districts assumed this at the district level and did not put it in the hands of individual trainers to make the decision to do it or not," Laughon said. "This is how change happens."

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SOURCES: Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., professor, pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, UPMC Children & # 39; s Pittsburgh Hospital; Kathryn Laughon, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Nursing, University of Virginia;JAMA Pediatrics, January 13, 2020

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