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West De Pere teams to enter pilot program

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Two varsity teams from the West De Pere School District – one boys’ and one girls’ – will participate a pilot program that aims to teach them to be good people off the field.

The programs, Athletes as Leaders for girls, and Coaching Boys Into Men for boys, aim to end violence.

Two of its advocates, Brown County Circuit Court Judge Tom Walsh and Golden House Executive Director Tonya Dedering, brought the pilot program before the West De Pere school board Sept. 12.

“I see a lot of cases in the juvenile court system that could have benefited from this program, and the criminal justice system is overloaded with them,” Walsh said. “Hopefully we can push back on that trend a little.”

Athletes as Leaders aims to help girls promote healthy relationships, recognize behaviors and traits that may become unhealthy and end sexual violence.

Coaching Boys Into Men spurs coaches to teach their athletes that “violence never equals strength, and violence against women and girls is wrong.”

Curriculum covers dating violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and promotes respect.

“Our goal is to implement it in every school on every sports team,” Walsh said.

The duo is talking to superintendents, school boards and athletic directors before approaching coaches, in an effort to clear the path at the top first.

One program in southern Wisconsin pitched it to coaches first, but found it had to go to the school district before it could move forward.

“We feel parents would want to know about this,” Walsh said, adding that Ashwaubenon has demonstrated enthusiasm for the program, and De Pere is on board with it as well.

Implementing the program begins with coaches, who are trained before the start of the season in a one-hour class led by Golden House.

“It’s very inexpensive with the exception of staff time,” Dedering said.

Then teams commit to spending 15 minutes per week to the program’s lessons.

“It can be 7 minutes one day, 8 minutes another,” Walsh said. “Coaches decide.”

One question arose about privacy concerns for families and whether parents might forbid their kids from going out for sports in high school for this reason.

That’s not the way the program operates, Walsh said.

It’s not a tell-all kind of program; it doesn’t try to coerce kids into talking about their private issues, he said. Rather, it gives examples of healthy versus unhealthy behaviors and focuses on hypothetical events.

“You love your parents, and you respect your coaches,” said Walsh about why the program targets athletic coaches.

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