The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has invited CVHS coaches Lori Poe (track/cross country) and Curt Cairns (baseball) to be honored guest speakers at its upcoming Coaching Boys into Men Showcase event on February 22nd. The event will highlight coaches who are working to make a positive mark in the lives of youth in sports. Lori, Curt, and four others were chosen out of 255 coaches implementing CBIM in the region. View the CBIM Showcase program.
The following are testimonials were prepared by the event organizers.
“Coaching Boys Into Men is a great program for girls, too. Kids of both sexes know they have someone to talk to. They become resources for each other. Not all kids have that, and it wouldn’t have happened here without the structure of the program.”
Lori Poe, Head Coach for Cross Country and Track & Field at Chartiers Valley High School, runs a combined program. So she asked her male assistants to work with the boys on the team when Chartiers Valley School District implemented Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) across its male athletic programs. The coaches used the discussion cards, following CBIM guidelines, while Lori had separate discussions with the girls. In place of topics specific to boys, she substituted others more relevant to girls.
“We talked about things like dressing provocatively. I wanted to provide a little bit of guidance,” she says. Parents can’t know everything their kids are doing, and most of the messages on the internet and social media aren’t about appropriate behavior. "Digital media is a big part of kids’ lives, and it desensitizes them. They need to be told repeatedly that a lot of the stuff they do isn’t right. Maybe the tenth time they’ll really hear it.” CBIM helps kids start to realize they should be listening.
The coaches’ involvement makes a big difference. “Kids trust their coaches, and spend a lot of time with them. If an issue comes up for either sex, they have someone to reach out and talk to.” Just as importantly, athletes who participate in CBIM exert positive peer pressure. “It’s really effective when one of your team mates steps up and says, ‘Whoa, what makes you think that’s okay? You shouldn’t be doing that.’” That’s especially true for younger athletes, who look up to seniors. Lori’s noticed that the kids treat each other with more respect now. “Being a little more accepting of each other, less critical, and standing up for each other – without that open dialogue, we’d be seeing less of that constructive behavior.”
Like every coach, Lori’s under pressure to maximize practice time. It can be difficult to get her athletes together at the same time, especially during the spring season, but she’s made CBIM part of her team’s routine. She says it’s been worth the effort. “You just have to make the commitment.”
OTHER QUOTES FROM LORI:
“There was some resistance from the kids when the program first got started. They said things like, ‘why do we have to do this? We’re not the ones who got into trouble.’ They really opened up, though, especially the cross-country guys. There were very willing and open.”
“In the group setting, one boy was talking about how he was treating some girls, and the other boys said, ‘whoa, that’s not right. Why do you think that’s okay?’ No one had talked to him about that, and coming from his peers it was more effective. In that respect, parents do a lot but they can’t see everything. These are little things. We can say, ‘hey, that’s not normal, you shouldn’t be doing that.’”
“There’s been some instances where the girls are catty, and the boys question their behavior. The girls will say, ‘We don’t like her because she’s better than us.’ The boys will tell them, ‘Who cares? When someone runs faster than you, you should be excited because they push you to be better. Work harder!’ That cattiness used to be the norm, but it’s not anymore.”
“When things like teamwork come up during the season, we refer back to some of the CBIM topics. It helps us address issues as a team. It’s a good gateway for talking to the team. Basically, we’re saying ‘we’re here for you. We want you to be better athletes, and better men and women.”
“The hardest part as a coach is making the time to do the program. It does take away from the practice schedule. You have to make the commitment to do it. You have to find a way to stick to the program until you’ve figured out how to make it a regular part of the practice routine. My kids don’t get credit for attending practice if they miss that day’s CBIM session.”
“These are good kids, so it’s tempting to just assume that everyone is doing the right thing and making the right decisions. But unless you talk to them, you don’t know what’s really happening in their lives. You’ve got to ask. You’ve got to have these conversations.”
Curt Cairns is in his second season as head baseball coach at Chartiers Valley High School, but he’s been coaching in the district for the past twenty years. “I’ve seen it all,” he laughs. He was eager to bring Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) to his team last year, at the request of school administrators. “The coaches knew that they needed to talk to our guys about some sensitive issues. The program’s been a great tool for doing that. It helps kids develop a moral compass. It helps them to focus, and stay out of trouble.”
Curt’s players weren’t shy in CBIM sessions. “They’re comfortable with me and the coaching staff. Coaches walk a fine line of respect with their players. We’re their mentors, not their friends.” CBIM conversations can be candid because they’re private, even in a group setting, and are exploratory rather than confrontational. “These are confidential talks, and no one outside the confines of your team is going to know what’s been said.” That sense of safety comes from the trust the players have in their coaches and in each other. “That’s the sign of a good team,” Curt says.
The athletes have turned around potentially troubling behaviors since the district implemented CBIM. Some are getting better grades, and they’re using better judgment on social media. “That component of the program in invaluable,” Curt says. “When I grew up there was no social media or internet. Now things can get awfully messy, awfully quick.” The biggest plus of all, he says, is that CBIM helps kids internalize concepts that improve all areas of their lives. “It’s about more than baseball or how you behave at a party. It’s a great program that helps to point our kids in the right direction in their decision making. Thinking before you act, and understanding the ramifications of taking the wrong path, helps kids in everything they do.”
OTHER QUOTES FROM CURT:
“One of my main objectives is to make baseball mean more than just playing a sport. It should be a commitment to the team and to the community. I want my players to be the best and most well-rounded people they can be.”
“I was surprised at how well the players responded when I started talking the first time. They were very forthcoming with information, things that I don’t think you’d know about them and what goes on in their lives, without having asked those questions.”
He used the cards the first time, “but the conversations branched into other areas. I also think it’s that the actual program is set up so that it’s non-threatening for the kids. It’s almost like you’re having a private talk that no one else is going to hear. The kids know you’re not going to rat them out. It’s a confidential talk that stays within the confines of your team.”