After participating in an internship with the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCAD) last summer, seniors Esha Shrivastav and Anusha Memon worked to bring an initiative called “Coaching Boys into Men,” to KO athletics, starting with boys soccer. The program strives to educate young male athletes about healthy relationship skills and to prevent issues of domestic violence.
Working with a KO alum from CCAD and Director of Athletics Debbie Fiske, Esha and Anusha implemented this program in the hopes that it will have an impact on the community. “I’ve always had in interest in social justice, and the more I learned about the statistics and stigma, the more I realized there is a need for awareness,” Esha said. “In other states and schools, it’s been very successful in lowering the amount of hazing and number of sexist practices. It really has evolved the dynamic, the hope is it will do the same thing to KO,” she said.
When Ms. Fiske informed the fall boys coaches of this initiative, boys varsity soccer Head Coach, Hikmet Aslan, volunteered his team to be a part of it. “I wasn’t happy with our locker room situation, and I thought it would be a great time to start, especially at this age,” he said. A representative from CCAD came to train Coach Aslan, and taught him how to approach the students with the material from a book. Every Tuesday, Coach Aslan holds a 15 minute session before practice for the boys soccer teams to get together, to listen and ask questions. “We have had some great meetings with the boys,” he said. “We are in chapter eight now, and while they were a little hesitant, they are enjoying it, because it is about the little lessons they are learning.”
While the boys think this program is a great idea, they said they were a little hesitant because it feels like they are being targeted. “It’s a great concept, and we are happy to learn, but it sort of feels like we have been singled out,” junior Carter Meshanic said. Senior Niko Rodriguez said he agrees that the program should be readily expanded to other sports teams. “We are not against the idea of the program wanting to improve domestic violence statistics, but we are still waiting for the program to get expanded,” he said.
Senior Brandon Stake said that so far, the meetings have been very effective. “I think it’s great in raising awareness, and should be broadcasted to the whole school,” he said. “So far, we have learned about consensual awareness and the importance of respect.” Junior Hunter Meshanic said he agreed that the program has been going really well. “I like how most of it is coming through Coach, someone we are close to and respect,” he said.
Anusha said that she hopes people will view the program as a learning opportunity, instead of a disciplinary action. “It’s about teaching people how to be in a healthy relationship, and it’s important to start young, because as you get older, relationships get more serious,” she said.
Coach Aslan said that regardless of their initial stubbornness, the boys have come to love the sessions and learned valuable lessons along the way. “Domestic violence and sexual harassment are very important topics in today’s world, and it’s important for them to start learning about them at this age,” he said.
Ms. Fiske said she agreed that the goal of this initiative is to learn about, promote, and inspire healthy relationships. “At this day and age, we see too many athletes being in the limelight for the wrong reasons. The intent with this program is about taking preventative measures: hearing it now before they are even confronted with that kind of situation,” she said. “And it fits in with our core values. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
She also said she looks forward to continuing to expand this program across the winter and spring teams. Overall, the program has been fruitful and will continue to expand across the athletic program.