Last Saturday, more than a hundred young women from across the area gathered at Vandegrift High School for a training program on how to defend themselves against parking lot attacks.
The program, called Dangerously Cute, was sponsored by Vandegrift High School and helped raise funds for the Vandegrift Soccer Boosters and SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone).
Teaching young women how to defend themselves is a passion of Vandegrift girls soccer coach Jen Hardy, who has announced this will be her last season at the school. The longtime soccer coach, who helped bring home the school's first team state athletic title in 2014, will be spending much of her time starting this summer bringing the Dangerously Cute to young women all across the country.
"The program starts with a conversation," said Hardy. "We teach the girls basic skills, to fight back with elbow, knee, kicks (and) as many striking tools without teaching how to punch. Other lessons deal with how to get out of choke hold, how to deal with someone laying on you, putting you into a bear hug and lying across your back."
Last weekend's program focused on defense against parking lot attacks in such places as college campuses, grocery stores and shopping centers, as well as defending against sexual assaults and attacks while running outdoors.
More than 15 years ago, Jen Hardy's father Pete, a fitness instructor and business owner in San Antonio, was asked by the Rape Crisis Center to put together a program for Rape Survivors using Krav-Maga, a self defense technique developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
At the time, "the center had 5 rape survivors who couldn't get themselves together," said Pete, adding that the the victims' overriding concern was how would they handle another attack, should one occur.
Pete's pilot program put the women back into the situation they faced previously, this time teaching how to defend themselves against a similar attack.
He and some volunteers donned tactical suits and encouraged the women to "kick the crap out of them," according to Pete. "It was like the women were reborn. We get them hard and expect them to fight back."
The program also teaches how to deal with an active shooter situation and that has become one of his most popular classes.
Recently, Jen, the longtime VHS girls soccer coach has decided to bring the program to the Vandegrift to help the young women on campus. She has since decided to take some time off from teaching and coaching in order to devote her efforts to helping her father expand the program throughout the country.
"It really boils down to empowerment. The belief that they deserve to fight for themselves," said Hardy. "I can see among my own athletes, when they take this program, they just stand taller and look the world in the eye."