Zach Just – Laurel Highlands High School
“All the guys admitted that they’d been involved in locker room talk at some point. They weren’t aware of the damage they were doing. They were just trying to be cool.”
Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) meshed well with the team building meetings Zach Just held every Thursday during his tenure as head football coach at Laurel Highlands High School. His players were already comfortable with the discussion format, and the CBIM materials made it easy to include more serious content. “We couldn’t have talked about those heavy topics without the flip cards. They are just outstanding,” Zach says. “They guide you and help you steer the conversation. The program does a fantastic job of tying all the topics together.”
A different coach selected an issue card and took the lead each week, always building on previous topics. Every coach attended every week. “The coaches make the difference. The kids thought it was important because we did. It was great when the guys opened up and talked about tough issues like consent. I hope they’ll remember what we talked about when they find themselves in a difficult situation.” That seems likely given the feedback Zach has received from players, from questioning the rationale for time-honored traditions like selecting a homecoming court to open criticism of top professional athletes who behave inappropriately toward women.
CBIM changed the coaches, too. “I’ll be honest, nobody talked about these issues when I was in school. We don’t talk about them enough as adults, either.” The discussions have had an impact on and off the field. Zach says that the coaches catch themselves and consciously avoid denigrating expressions such as “you hit like a girl” during practice. CBIM gave coaches with daughters a deeply personal opportunity “to tell the guys how a girl’s father expects them to behave, and how they would feel about a guy who disrespected their daughter.” Talking about respect has even changed the way the coaches talk to their wives and girlfriends.
According to Zach, “CBIM is an excellent program. Everyone who participated got something out of it. It may sound harsh but it’s the truth: if you’re a coach who is reluctant to do it, then maybe you shouldn’t be coaching these young men anyway.”