Hockinson High School football coach Rick Steele is trying something new this year—he’s teaching an optional 45-minute “Man Class” every Wednesday before practice. HHS junior Colton Wheeler says the talks are bringing the team together and having a positive impact. “It’s preparing us to make the right decision and choose the right path,” Colton says.

We asked Coach Steele what it’s all about …

Q: I heard you’re offering Man Class to your football players. What is it?

Rick Steele: It just started one day in practice. We were talking to the boys about how to shake hands, because high school kids can come across as not being confident. A good firm handshake and looking the person right in the eye—that shows confidence and leaves a good impression. Now every day at practice the kids all go around and shake hands with coaches before they leave.

We try to help these boys understand there’s more to life than school, and we’re trying to fill in some gaps with this class.

Q: What topics do you discuss in Man Class?

RS: We’ve talked about how to control anger, how to leave good impressions with people, how to treat young women.

On a recent Wednesday, we talked about class progress reports coming out. I asked one of the boys who I’d had seen in the hallway with his girlfriend, “Grade yourself on how you treat your girlfriend.” He thought for a minute and said, “B-.” I asked another kid how he grades himself with treating his parents and so on. No one gave themselves an A.

It’s a class they’ve never had before. It’s good to see these boys open up in front of each other.

Q: Is there are reason Man Class is important now?

RS: I just don’t think these conversations are happening with young men like they used to. I remember one day my son said he didn’t know how to change a tire. I thought, “Golly, how did that happen?” We get so busy these days, and we forget about little things that boys growing into men should know. I don’t want to make it sound like dads aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but if we can help out with that a little bit—that’s what we’re doing.

I’ve had parents come up and thank me, because these kids have been going home and talking about class with their parents. It’s nice to know we’re driving some discussions at home.

Our job as coaches is to teach these young men more than football.

–By Sarah Coomber