Area high school football coaches, players tackle bigger problem

What they found – with the help of many high school football coaches throughout the Miami Valley – is something that is unprecedented in the tri-state area, if not nationally.

Powell said he had been briefed by a few people including Larry Lee, the former Dayton Roosevelt star who spent 17 years in the NFL as a player and administrator and is now a director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the nonprofit organization that monitors minority hiring and other issues in the NFL.

Lee spoke during the initial unification effort promoted by Place and Powell, a webinar in January in which 156 area high school coaches attended to discuss social justice, their training and their teams.

Place said that one of the most compelling things said during this session came from Roosevelt Mukes, the head coach of Wayne High School:

He said, ‘We have to get around people we’re not used to being with and talking and having these awkward conversations. “

“Our belief is that contact brings acceptance.”

Jim Place was Middletown’s head coach from 1986 to 1990. TY GRENLEES / STAFF

This was the catalyst for the second installment of their social justice initiative, which takes place today at Welcome Stadium and Wayne High School.

These are the Miami Valley Coaches Association “Coaches for Social Justice 7 on 7,” a kind of jamboree that will involve teams from 28 high schools, including several of the premier football programs in the Dayton area, as well as schools like State Defense Division I. Champion St. Xavier of Cincinnati, Detroit Southeastern and Lima Senior; and also rural schools like Tri-Village and Arcanum.

Some teams all have black players. Some are all white. Some teams are mixed.

Place said several other schools – including Massillon – have indicated they want to participate next year.

Today, participating schools will be divided into groups of four racially diverse teams and will play 7-on-7 football for two hours.

For example, the 2pm gathering at Welcome Stadium includes Meadowdale, Tri-Village, Kenton Ridge, and Northwestern. At Wayne at 4 p.m., Fairborn joins Lima Senior, Arcanum, and Cincinnati Withrow. Meanwhile, in the same time slot at Welcome, Springfield, Dunbar, St. X and Detroit Southeastern go head-to-head.

“When you consider the teams that are here and the fact that everything is free – when schools usually have to pay a few hundred dollars to participate in a 7v7 scrum, I think this is going to become the first event of its kind. in southwestern Ohio, ”Place said.

And that’s without counting the social justice component thereafter.

Each football session today will be followed by a 45-minute discussion that will include opening comments from Place, Powell or Michal Carter, the former coach and current director of diversity at Sinclair. Team captains from each program will introduce their school, and then hopefully there will be some insightful conversations.

In the evening, former college and NFL players, guys like Keith Byars and Chris Borland, will take part in a celebrity competition that will also include local police and prosecutors.

There will be free t-shirts and Chick-fil-A will provide food. Referees volunteer their time and Kettering Sports Medicine oversees any treatment needs that may arise.

A few former players (especially Borland) and people from the community, as well as the Fritz Pollard Alliance, have donated to help cover the costs.

At the end of the day, Powell and Place are hoping the players will return home with more than just dry sweat on their faces and arms, new loot, and a full stomach:

“We hope that by bringing together diverse teams there will be a chance to meet someone and maybe exchange some thoughts with someone who is from a region different from yours,” said Powell. “Maybe they’ll even have a chance to get someone’s name and even a phone number. It is about broadening your horizon, widening your village.

“People want to come together”

Place and Powell have a pretty good read on people. The two see life beyond the rectangle bordered by the football field.

A University of Dayton football star in the late 1960s, Place has spent the past 51 years as an Ohio Hall of Fame football educator, administrator and coach in the Dayton and of Cincinnati. He has spoken to hundreds of high schools, colleges, and civic groups and for a decade taught character classes to other UD teachers.

Curtis Boyd of Dunbar receives a congratulatory hug from Wolverines assistant coach Alfred Powell during the Division II High School Regional Track meet at Welcome Stadium in Dayton on Saturday, May 31, 2014. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Curtis Boyd of Dunbar receives a congratulatory hug from Wolverines assistant coach Alfred Powell during the Division II High School Regional Track meet at Welcome Stadium in Dayton on Saturday, May 31, 2014. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF



Powell, like his twin brother Alfred, is a long-time respected coach, mentor to local youth, and community leader. He is currently an advisor to the director of schools in the city of Lima. In recent days, he’s been on another public speaking escapade, this time to Mississippi, speaking at the Jackson Campus of Hinds Community College and Delta State.

“One thing Al and I believe in: people want to come together,” Place said. “We find him again and again. People want to do the right thing, but they’re like, ‘Tell me how. I just don’t know how.

Today’s 7/7 social justice is just one of the few things the duo – with the help of other coaches – have in mind. And Powell thinks the student-athletes will respond:

“We have great kids and that’s what we’re trying to show. Too often you don’t hear about them because the issues and tragedies involving them grab the headlines and get all the attention.

“But we start from the theory that it’s the generation that wants to do something about the problems, that it’s the generation that wants to make real change.

“We see these student-athletes as young people just waiting to expire. They breathed in all of this old generation stuff and they look at our mistakes and want to do better.

“It’s time for them to breathe out and figure this out.

“It’s time for them to take a deep breath on their own. “

‘That’s what you should do’

Powell thinks football is a good way to promote social justice and awareness:

“Like most team sports, football is a continuing opportunity to teach young people how to progress to help each other,

“And that? It’s teamwork on another level.

He said the coaches had “been brainstorming” for other ideas to continue the conversation.

Tentatively, over the Thanksgiving holiday to Christmas, they hope to have another session.

“We would like to bring 10 soccer players from each school to Sinclair and we’ll have speakers and talk about what we can do to bring people together,” Place said.

Powell also spoke of having another webinar session involving players who went to college and joined different integrated programs from their high school teams.

He said they can talk about the pleasant surprises they had and also some of the pitfalls caused by ignorance, prejudice or just stereotypes:

“These are all things to help us come together and understand each other better. “

Place agreed: “It comes down to the idea that contact brings acceptance.

“I know these aren’t huge things, but it’s something we can do.”

It’s more than that, said Powell:

“That’s what you should do.”

About Rachel Gooch

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