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Rhinelander High School is 'Coaching Boys Into Men'


When baseball, track, tennis and golf start up this April, Rhinelander High School boys won’t just learn how to master their sport.

This season, they’ll also learn about preventing sexual violence.

The Oneida County Health Department and Rhinelander High School are collaborating to instate a new program in the school’s athletic department.

It’s called Coaching Boys Into Men, and it has been implemented in schools around the country to teach male athletes about abusive behaviors and when to intervene.

“[The boys] are going to be going through their normal sports practice but their coach is going to be having conversations about respect and integrity, what that means for a young man and how they can really stand up and make a difference in their community,” Maria Otterholt, the program’s lead, said.

She said coaches can be influential in the lives of young athletes, which is part of the reason why the program is so effective.

According to an evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, athletes who completed the program not only knew more about abusive behaviors, but they were also more likely to step in should they witness those behaviors.

Otterholt said sexual violence isn’t a bigger problem in Oneida County than in other places, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.

Data show that a third of teenagers know a friend or peer who’s been physically hurt by a partner.

“It’s going to be beneficial to these youth to have conversations now, and prevent sexual violence before it ever occurs in the first place,” Otterholt said.

The program will begin as spring sports get underway. High school coaches have already undergone training.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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