High school football players usually focus on learning plays, positions and teamwork.
But a new program at Kingsley High School is taking it a step further.
They’re helping players grow on and off the field by piloting the "Coaching Boys into Men" program this season.
The school is hoping this special program will help instill respect in their players.
Something that will follow them long after they’ve hung up their helmets.
“It was very life changing almost,” said Kingsley High School Head Football Coach Jason Leonard.
Life changing lessons — that will impact these players and everyone around them.
A football team talking about something very different than running plays and scoring points.
"We were able to freely talk about women and really understand what other people’s opinions are in situations we could potentially be in,” said Varsity Football Captain Nathan Schaar.
The Kingsley football coach implements the "Coaching Boys into Men" program.
He hosted discussions once a week this season about respecting women in different situations.
“I don’t know if parents truly talk to their boys about how to behave around women. It’s just assumed that because they’re raised well by a good mom or by a dad that they already know how to do that,” Leonard said.
The player-coach relationship provides a more comfortable environment to talk about difficult issues like sexual harassment and consent.
“Like if we see somebody getting into it with their girlfriend or something, we can run up and pull them away and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t the right time. Not the right place. Ease up for a little bit. Take a break, maybe think it over for a couple of days then come back and talk about it instead of getting violent,’” Schaar.
The program is paid for through an 800-dollar grant from K Town Youth Clinic and Zonta Club of Traverse City.
Topics include: building and maintaining healthy relationships, how to show emotion, and when no means no.
“I definitely say I’ll treat women with more respect and equality, and not swear as much, because that was a big topic of ours,” said Varsity Football Captain Connor Hebert.
Just the beginning of something the boys say is turning them into better men.
“It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but it’s definitely something that needs to be talked about and definitely helps.”
They plan to continue this program next year, and possibly do a pledge day against sexual harassment.