Duval Sports

A Coach’s Plea..

“It’s a coaches responsibility to give back to the community”, the words of Coach Walter Dunn of the DOT Trojans. Coach Dunn led his youth basketball team to a city championship appearance in 2016. And like many other coaches around the city, Coach Dunn had to make several sacrifices for kids to have the opportunity to play a sport. DOT is a youth basketball team located in the Grand Park area of Jacksonville, Florida. When signing up to coach in that area of town, you understand that coaching comes secondary to life.

Coach Walter Dunn, pictured with three captains from the DOT Trojans

Coach Walter Dunn, pictured with three captains from the DOT Trojans

It’s an area that has certainly seen better days. In recent years, Grandpark has been the focus of deadly shootings. It is one of several communities in Jacksonville that’s been stricken with violence and killings of late. The perpetrators and victims are most times young people who begin a life of crime at an even younger age.

Many times this is what differentiates the coaching dynamic with a coach on main street, from a coach in Mandarin. Sure coaches must be willing to sacrifice their time and money for pizza parties and picking up kids for practice; But even more importantly, they must be able to provide positive influence and guidance to the youth in the communities to which they serve. Giving back to the community truly comes in various forms in our city, but one form struck me as one that could truly be a game changer in our city.

Coach Jeris White or ” Papaj” as he is affectionately known by many in the youth sports arena, has been coaching youth football for eight years. After playing at Raines High School in the mid 90’s and college at Edward Waters, he jumped into the coaching ring shortly thereafter. He is a visible figure to the youth on his team in more ways than one, standing well over 6 feet tall. His wing span is as far as east is from west seemingly; but recently on Facebook, White wrote an impassioned plea to other coaches around our area. A plea that could potentially reach further than his physical presence could ever, especially if it’s adopted by other coaches.

Said White..

#REALITYCHECK Just looking at some kids FB pages (recruiting) and ran across a page that had a kid with a gun pointed…

Posted by Jeris Papaj White on Friday, March 25, 2016

 

Just looking at some kids FB pages (recruiting) and ran across a page that had a kid with a gun pointed at the camera. Looked at the friends list and seen we had 18 mutual friends, 4 which are coaches, and 14 former players. I expect these kids to follow this page, cause it showcases an exceptional youth athlete in the area (Jacksonville, Fl) and the coaches too. What startled me, was the profile picture was a live video of this kid pointing this gun at the camera singing with excitement. Knowing the violence going on right now in our city with the youth, that’s the wrong perception to give to anyone who may be looking. It shows poor judgment, high risk behavior that will inhibit you from being successful, and on track to the penitentiary. As a mentor and leader of my community (as a coach), I have to do something to interrupt the thought process of this youth. I can no longer stand around and do nothing to help my community grow, but watch it destroy itself from petty beef and teenagers with guns. Those 4 coaches who are mutual friends of me and this youth, reach out to him and tell him to take that video down and any other picture or photo that shows Poor Choice Characteristics. Let’s stay being more pro active when it comes to our kids, stop letting these women raise these boys by themselves, and start being a mentor or role model in some of our young men lives, let’s start doing more positive things with them, to show them what’s it like and how it feels to be cared for, stop being selfish with this borrowed time god has given you, do something productive for your community today and start making a difference.

-Feel free to share this-

 

There is certainly a lot of food for thought in his message to digest. Yet the main entree I took for my plate was coaches and volunteers taking a more proactive role on social media to influence young people. It is a task all of us can easily do. Coaches from youth sports all the way to the professional level scourer Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat accounts looking for their next Peyton Manning. Yet with so many negative distractions young athletes today, the next Peyton Manning is just one slip up away from being the next Ryan Leaf. The charge of giving back to the community requires a coach to catch and attempt to detour negative behaviors before they spiral out of control. This could come in a form as simple as a reply message or emoji on Facebook. In today’s demographic of house holds, something that simple by a coach could go a long way with troubled youth. There is a tremendous need for positive role models in our society, but there is an even greater need for positive male role models. Papaj eluded to it in his message.

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Tony Dungy once said, “Nearly one in three children live apart from their biological dads? Those kids are two to three times more likely to grow up in poverty, to suffer in school, to have health and behavioral problems.”

Poverty and single parent homes are inescapable factors with youth in sports today. Names like Lance Armstrong, Ray Lewis, Luis Suarez, Lebron James, and Larry Bird, are all notable sports figures that made it without their biological fathers in their lives. These athletes have also gone on record in saying that there were positive male role models in their lives that helped them along the way. But for every Hall of Famer that makes it, there are hundreds of kids that don’t, instead resorting to a life style that most times mirrors the struggle in which their communities face. imageNow coaches can’t do anything about poverty and household makeups, but they can play a role in providing a little balance in those homes. That balance could come in the form of a coach monitoring and reprimanding a youth through social media.

Think about the implications of this. A coach from Julington Creek who would almost never have a chance to interact with a young man from Jacksonville’s Westside near 103rd, could now be able to do so via this method. A coach from Dunn Ave could be able to speak positive words to a youth in Ponte Vedra who may be struggling with issues. It’s a way to cross territorial lines by severing social divides. Make no mistake, this problem we face is not a black or white issue. It’s not a rich or poor issue. It’s not even a county issue. It’s a North East Florida issue. I know all to well how growing up on Jacksonville’s bustling Southside in the 90’s, did not isolate me from the same struggles I witnessed while living on Jacksonville’s Northside. A high school football teammate of mine murdered one of my best friends from school. Since that day I was left wondering how did everyone miss the signs that led to my teammate’s malicious lifestyle? And was there something more we could’ve done to stop such a senseless tragedy? Unfortunately, my teammate’s horrific crime occurred before the social media era, but perhaps being more social on social media could help save lives and forge futures today.


 

 

 

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