Coaches highlight how sports can affect communities

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was the video that returned domestic violence to the forefront of the national conversation.

Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice was shown knocking out his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator.

It was the first of three high-profile domestic violence incidents that included all-pro running back Adrian Peterson indicted for child abuse and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy arrested on assault charges against his then-girlfriend. It was later dropped on appeal.

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“Those situations that occurred over the last 36 months in sport whether its basketball football it didn't happen by chance there's something going on that we can all take something from and we have to ask ourselves what can we do to make a difference,” NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent said.

Vincent is a 14-year veteran of the NFL and is the league’s executive vice president of football operations. He’s No. 2 in the chain of command behind Commissioner Roger Goddell.

Vincent is also a domestic violence survivor.

Throughout his childhood, Vincent watched his father physically abuse his mother.

Vincent’s personal connection to domestic violence and his advocacy for survivors made his voice an important one as the NFL was overhauling personal conduct policies, focusing on educating and raising awareness among the players and increasing their support of prevention groups in the community. It was small steps to try to stem the tide of what was becoming an epidemic in the league.

"This is lifetime work, meaning we've moved the needle based off of what we've done look how we've moved the needle but there's so much more that needs to be done," he said.

Vincent was a guest speaker at a Call to Men  National Conference last month in Charlotte to discuss the effect sports can have on the community.

“So many young men go into sport and so many coaches have influence over those young men so if we can start educating the coaches then i think we're making some impact,” said Ted Bunch, co-founder of Call to Men.

Two years ago, Piedmont Middle School head coach David Milligan attended a similar conference put on by Call to Men.

It’s Milligan’s job to help shape the young men that come through his classroom and play on the Piedmont Middle football team. It’s a job he loves and a responsibility he takes seriously.

“I can be a father figure I can be a role model. I can be a counselor. I can wear the hat I need to wear to help that kid the best way possible,” Milligan said.

Milligan lost his own father when he was 10 and still remembers the effect the coaches had on his life. His players are at an impressionable age, when lifelong lessons are learned even through subtle comments like being told by a coach "you throw like a girl."

“That has slipped out of my mouth. ‘Look at you. You throw like a girl,’ and I shared that with my other coaches we actually had a meeting about it and we talked about it how we have to change that mentality,” Milligan said.

Mark Carrier is the director of player engagement for the Carolina Panthers and its his job to help rookies transition to life as a professional. He can tell when a player has been shaped by a positive coaching role model early in life.

"How a young man walks into a building. How he carries himself. How he speaks. How he will interact with a female, a young lady. You notice those things. Unfortunately you don't notice it enough," Carrier said.

Parents should pay attention to how their child’s coach talks about sportsmanship, respect and fair play. Ask children what he or she is learning at practice and how their coach talks to them and treats the officials.

“I know that I’m a model. I know that my behavior in their eyes is bigger than life and that is something that I really I take heed to I understand and I don't take it for granted at all,” Milligan said.