Mike Collodi – Elizabeth Forward

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“It’s not easy to talk about violence against women. But our kids need more guidance than simply being told that we don’t want to see them in the paper for the wrong reasons. Kids understand the importance of these messages, and, in this day and age, they can’t hear them enough.”

Mike Collodi, head coach of the Elizabeth Forward Warriors, is proud of his football team’s performance on and off the field. With many competing priorities, he says, “Sometimes coaches can be pressed for time and lose sight of what’s important with these kids. It’s about more than the X’s and O’s.” Mike’s playbook includes strategies for building character, so he wanted to bring Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) to his players as soon as he heard about it.

CBIM gives Mike a flexible structure for talking to his team about information they don’t typically get anywhere else. Mike commands the team’s attention with his passion and energy, and he changes up the delivery of each week’s message to keep the team engaged. “The athletes were initially hesitant to speak up, but as the program went on, the participation kept growing. Now the players look forward to the weekly meetings. They’ll ask me on Monday what we’re going to talk about on Wednesday.” This small investment of time has paid off. Mike notices that his athletes are more mature and more respectful when speaking to each other. Teachers report a positive change in players’ behavior during the school day, too.

For Mike, “Everything revolves around respect, understanding what it is and how to treat everyone: teachers, girlfriends, teammates, parents, even your opposition. Respect lays the groundwork for everything I expect from my team.” His expectations matter to his players because he’s more than a coach to them. “They know they can come to me with anything,” he says. “I live by the motto, ‘Kids don’t care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.’ That’s something my staff and I really pride ourselves on.” When Mike took to the mound at PNC Park to throw the honorary first pitch in recognition of his work with CBIM, his team was as excited as he was. “CBIM’s made us all better,” he says. “Everyone in the district is behind it. It’s the right thing to do.”

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