Provincial government tackles gender-based violence in high schools

May 13, 2024 | News, Provincial News

The provincial government announced nearly $875,000 in funding for gender-based violence training for young, male athletes on May 10, 2024.

The program, named Coaching Boys into Men, is a 12-week violence prevention program to train high school coaches to provide appropriate education to their young, male athletes about the gravity of using violence, a media release said.

The approach is for coaches to engage with male athletes about healthy relationships, consent and build a culture free of violence, it said.

The Interval House of Hamilton will certify around 23 violence against women [VAW] agencies across Ontario for the program.

The VAW agencies will implement training for about 400 coaches and teachers from local schools across the province.

Stephen Lecce, minister of education, said the real-life skills provided by this program will benefit outside of the school.

“It is critical that boys and young men in this province learn how to build healthy relationships, prevent violence and respect girls and women in schools and across our society,” Lecce said.

This program intends to tackle bullying, hazing, harassment, violence and abuse among male student-athletes, the press release said.

Ryan Diodati, deputy chief of operations with Hamilton Police, said it’s not just about preventing crimes. Teaching these values is about fostering communities with healthy relationships where violence is not tolerated.

“In policing, we often encounter the negative outcomes of gender-based violence,” Diodati said. “The Coaching Boys into Men program is crucial in shifting this narrative by educating young men early on about the importance of respect, consent and healthy relationships.”

Jess Dixon, MPP for Kitchener South-Hespeler, is leading this curriculum.

Dixon said reducing gender-based violence among youth is important for society.

“We will never succeed in combating gender-based violence if we fail to give young men and boys the tools they need to foster healthy relationships, challenge harmful behaviours and ultimately become allies of women,” she said.

A 2023 SafeSport study by the Coaches Association of Ontario [CAO] indicated 76 per cent of coaches are volunteers who do not have National Coaching Certification Program [NCCP] training.

The study said one in three coaches were aware of hazing rituals at their institutions and did not complete a background check or sign a code of conduct, while 82 per cent of coaches think it’s a part of team building.

According to the study, in the past six months, one in every five coaches has heard racist, sexist or homophobic language used at competitions.

Mihir Patwardhan, an athlete, a member of Humber Recreation Staff and a student of Sports Business Management, said there is a staunch requirement for teaching young male athletes more than just the game.

“It’s also about development and life lessons. It goes beyond discipline,” Patwardhan said. “You’re [coaches] not just developing their bodies or skills, you’re developing their thinking towards other people.”

He said aggression is a part of the game and fights are bound to erupt. Inappropriate language said to each other during games may not look like a big deal, but it can have a lasting impact.

“We have mixed teams where male, female and other athletes play together. So there is a need for open communication,” Patwardhan said. “There need to be boundaries set. They spend a lot of time together. They travel together and may stay at the same hotels.”

He said coaches should be mindful of how male athletes treat their teammates and nourish a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect.

“Although, it’s equally important for parents to have this training and education too,” Patwardhan said. “This environment needs to be nurtured on and off the field.”