YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Every football practice at Chaney High School will start the same this season, not with a huddle break but with a conversation.
Head coach Chris Amill is doing a daily check-in with every player in the program, from the junior high to the senior class. Amill, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Red Zone, got the idea from a social worker within the school system who was doing the same thing with students.
So every practice this summer will begin with a conversation with the players, giving them an opportunity to talk about their time off the field and speak their mind on social issues.
“Initially, they were a little stand-offish, but the more they get familiar with each other, out here working out with each other and things like that, they started to open up,” Amill said. “Just the way that they encourage each other and let each other know that they’re there for them, I mean, it’s been great, and practice has just been amazing. Guys have been able to come out and just be mentally prepared to work hard and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
And the conversation doesn’t stop there. Four members of the Youngstown Police Department spoke to the team on Tuesday and even ran through some drills with the players. Coach Amill is hoping to have them involved all summer to help bridge the gap between police and the young men they’ve sworn to protect and serve.
“I hope they understand when they see us not to have any ill feelings toward us,” said Frank Rutherford, a 20-year veteran with the Youngstown police. “When they see us, know that we’re here for them. We’re part of the community and we work for them. We want to help them. When they see us, just talk to us and give us a chance, and let’s build a relationship together because together we can make this a better community.”
“Just giving them their time on their turf, their terms, their words,” said Amill. “Yes he’s a police officer. He’s not out to hurt us, and he’s out here working with us. He’s sweating with us. He’s calling me out when I’m not working hard, and I know I can do the same thing. It’s just building those relationships and creating bonds.”