NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Participating in a teen relationship abuse prevention program may equip and encourage high school coaches to intervene when they witness abusive behavior among athletes, according to a new study.
Researchers previously showed that the program had a positive influence on male high school athletes, who showed reductions in perpetration of dating violence and increased intention to intervene and stop violence among peers.
The program, called Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM), trains coaches to deliver 15-minute scripted discussions once a week during the athletic season. The lessons highlight respect, nonviolence, sexual consent and interrupting abusive behaviors among peers.
"The coaches gained as much from delivering the program as the athletes who received it," said Maria Catrina D. Jaime, the study's lead author from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
"After the CBIM program, they were more confident addressing abusive behaviors among their athletes and having violence-related discussions with both athletesand fellow coaches. Since coaches are important role models for youth, it is rewarding that they found the CBIM program easy to do during the sport season and felt that it added value for their athletes and coaching staff," she told Reuters Health.
Jaime said the program has been successfully adapted internationally by cricket coaches and athletes in Mumbai, India.
In the U.S., nearly one quarter of women experience violence by a current or former partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The issue of dating violence in sports reemerged earlier this year when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was shown on surveillance recordings fighting with his then-fiancee, now wife, and allegedly knocking her unconscious at a casino.
The new study, Jaime explained, contributes to research regarding the importance of adult role models for engaging boys in violence prevention and suggests that coach-led programs may be an alternative to traditional violence prevention programs that require classroom instruction.
She and her colleagues recruited 176 coaches who led a variety of male and co-ed teams, including football, basketball and lacrosse teams, at 16 Northern California high schools.
They split the coaches into two groups. Coaches in the intervention group received the one-hour CBIM training and kits to lead program discussions and those in the comparison group continued with their usual coaching activities.
Coaches completed surveys at the beginning and end of the season that addressed their own attitudes as well as their responses to abusive behavior and inappropriate comments by athletes.
Although the coaches were not paid, schools did receive a small stipend for allowing them to participate.
When comparing the initial surveys to end-of-season surveys, the researchers found that coaches in the intervention group were 18 percent better at identifying abusive behaviors and 30 percent more likely to address an instance of abusive behavior toward women when they recognized one than coaches in the comparison group.
Intervention coaches were also significantly more likely to start discussions about abusive behavior with colleagues and athletes than comparison coaches, according to findings published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
"We suspected from watching how enthusiastic coaches can become about the program, that the program may have some impact on the coaches themselves," said Jaime.
"Coaches are valuable role models and can help prevent violence toward women and girls. The CBIM program is a research-tested program that coaches find easily integrates into their coaching routine and is valuable to help their athletes think and behave more respectfully toward women and girls," she said.