SPASH soccer looks to turn boys into men
Most of the time when people talk about the power of sports, they don't think about high school soccer, but SPASH boys soccer head coach Derek Bell is trying to change that.
Last year, Bell implemented the "Coaching Boys into Men" program for his team, which focuses on mental health for young men, respecting women and confronting negative masculine norms in society.”
“There were couple of instances where I really didn't appreciate their attitudes and behaviors, really specifically towards women,” Bell said. “And, those were issues I could see that were creating conflict amongst themselves too, just the overall attitude and behavior."
Senior Brendan Leahy says the program has changed his mind-set about what it really means to be a man.
"They always say man up, or just quit being a baby and just stop crying about it,” Leahy said. “I think I’ve really learned to take a step back and be able to express my emotions for ‘man that really didn't feel right’, or this is how I feel, or this is how I should feel as a person not just as a man."
The Coaching Boys into Men program involves much more than just a one-off conversation amongst the team. This year every player was required to watch the film "The Mask You Live In", which focuses on male stereotypes and behaviors. In addition instructors from UWSP come in to talk to the team about how to treat people more respectfully and improve as young men.
Coach Bell emphasized that in order to see true improvement, this is a day in and day out process.
“I've had them talk to me about things they've heard at school, and how they've stepped in and they've been willing to say like ‘hey that's not appropriate’, or ‘you really shouldn't talk like that,” said Bell. “That's really where the day-to-day process of this comes into play, is on a day-to-day basis are you willing to say that in your social setting, amongst your friends, in that peer group where it's really difficult to be that person. But, we want you to be that person and have that confidence."
Bell hopes the program will catch on at more schools across the state soon, clearly for good reason.