- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - About 50 coaches, representing nearly every region of Alaska converged on Juneau, to talk about domestic violence.

The coaches were in the capital Tuesday for an all-day training conference titled, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” the Juneau Empire reported (http://is.gd/UIC3pR).

“By far, the most coaches we’ve ever had in one room,” Mark Calvert, who coordinates between the Coaching Boys Into Men program in Juneau and Juneau’s AWARE shelter, said. “So it’s a really huge deal.”

The program teaches young men respect for women and healthy relationships. The California-based Futures Without Violence started the program in 2001, and it was first implemented four years ago in Juneau by Thunder Mountain boys basketball coach John Blasco.

He was approached by AWARE to start the program, and now spends time every week talking to athletes about what constitutes unhealthy and abusive relationships, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“It was awkward at first,” he said during a panel discussion. “You just gotta be brave those first couple of times.”

Blasco said he has noticed a change in his players, adding they have become more conscientious about words they use and how they act.

“It’s definitely a start in making a change to help young men understand what we expect from them,” he said.

Thunder Mountain senior Ben Jahn, 17, who plays football, basketball, soccer and baseball, said players will police each other and point out when one of their teammates crosses the line.

Initially, he and teammates wondered why they were taking part in the curriculum when none had done anything wrong.

That attitude changed, he said, when he received an email from a victim of domestic violence, who said she appreciated the show of support from the basketball team.

“It showed that we were actually doing something to help other people, not just ourselves,” he said. “I thought that was really cool.”

The program is now offered to other teams in the Juneau-Douglas School District.

Attendance on Tuesday showed statewide support, too, with coaches attending from as far away as Nome, Barrow, Unalaska, Cordova, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Ketchikan.

“We traveled all day yesterday, practically (to get here),” said Edward Tocktoo, an elder and coach from Brevig Mission, located about 70 miles north of Nome.

“It’s something we can teach the boys that they can use when they’re out on their own, like when they go to college,” said James Olanna, the girls basketball coach in Brevig Mission.

“We’re going to help out our boys and girls in our community,” Tocktoo added. “I know I’m going to head back home with positive results.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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