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Los Angeles Group Teaches Respect for Women Through Sports Coaches

Basketball coaches in Los Angeles study program materials during a Coaching Boys into Men session

An organization that combats violence against women is reaching out to coaches, who are influential figures in the lives of student athletes. Tthe program called Coaching Boys into Men is spreading its message through basketball, cricket and other sports.

At an athletic center in Los Angeles, Feroz Moideen leads a group of basketball coaches through printed materials prepared by the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund.

Moideen says the non-profit organization works with police, judges, teachers, and coaches.

"Coaches have a special and unique relationship with athletes," he said. "For example, coaches have an opportunity to see a lot of things that parents don't. And I remember back in the days when I used to play sports and I used to listen to my coaches. We all did because we wanted to get on the court, and I looked up to my coach."

Los Angeles coach Brian Taylor says adolescent boys need to hear this message. A former professional basketball player, he now coaches high school youngsters.

He has seen them act disrespectfully toward cheerleaders and other women, and says he asks them how they would want to see their mother or sister treated.

"We've had a couple of incidents where they were disrespectful towards a female driver and we nipped that in the bud by being able to have some tools and some ways in which to address that," he said.

Feroz Moideen says his organization used a $1.5-million grant from the Nike Foundation to branch out to India, where it is reaching cricket players.

"We tried to use the power of cricket coaches in that instance to reach young boys and, once again, to educate them about healthy relationships and to model healthy and respectful behavior toward women and girls," he said.

With endorsements from sports stars like soccer player David Beckham, the organization has prepared written materials that are being distributed by the United Nations children's and educational agency, UNICEF.

"And that has been taken on by a lot of the UNICEF field offices at varying levels," Feroz said. "In South Africa, it was piloted in over 125 schools and in other areas it was just more of a public campaign."

Brian O'Connor of the Family Violence Prevention Fund says the new social media have created a need for new programs. He says harassment and abuse have moved to digital forums, and coaches, teachers and others are now counseling boys on their online behavior.

"Talking about unwanted or excessive text messaging, or breaking into someone's Facebook account," he said. "We're calling this digital dating abuse, another form of abuse that has been really heightened now through technology."

He says that young men need guidelines in how to treat young women, and key people in a boy's life, especially his coaches, can get across the message.