A different look

Program provides glimpse of others’ viewpoints

Correspondent file photo / Robert Hayes Trenton Hill (1) of Ursuline High School runs for yardage during a game last year against Mentor Lake Catholic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about the Build the Bridge program in northeast Ohio high school football.

Chaney High School football coach Chris Amill knows teaching the sport to group of teenagers is just part of his job, and mentoring the young men in life skills is another.

He recently had members of the Youngstown Police Department at the high school, talking to his players.

Bryant Douglas, a senior wide receiver and defensive back, said he and his teammates got to see what the officers are thinking when they make a stop or are on a call.

“We really got to see their point of view,” he said. “They were able to talk it out with us to see what we’re supposed to do in certain situations. That really helped us as a team.”

Talking, that’s what this Cowboys team does. That’s one of the reasons Chaney was selected for a project called Build the Bridge, the brainchild of Cleveland Heights assistant football coach Kahari Hicks.

He and Cleveland Heights coach Mac Stephens started reaching out to coaches to bring majority white programs together with majority black programs for seven-on-seven scrimmages, team workouts and other team-building programs, discussions and meals. Chaney will be paired with Twinsburg.

The idea is to bring players and coaches together and help everyone realize there’s more that brings us together than separates us.

Hicks encourages coaches to reach out to him via Twitter (@kahari–hicks) if they are interested in being a part of the project, which has drawn in schools from all over northeast Ohio to participate.

Teams plan to get together in July, but how and if they get together is dependent on what Gov. Mike DeWine declares is safe for high school athletics going forward as part of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which already canceled spring sports.

Teams are in phase two, in which they can practice as a group. Currently, there are no seven-on-seven, joint practices or scrimmages allowed. Everything has to be with their own teams.

Teams in the Build the Bridge project have to wait for the state and the Ohio High School Athletic Association to give the OK to get together.

Ursuline coach Dan Reardon, whose team is paired with East, said it could be a big thing just because it’s football. People come together for football from different backgrounds and races. Football enables players and coaches to work toward a common goal.

“With that, it’s a very powerful thing without doing something like this,” Reardon said. “When you partner with another team and people that are different than you from different sides of town, religion, color or whatever it is, background, it can be that much more powerful.

“You’re meeting new people that who knows, 10-20 years from now, maybe these kids are working together. Maybe one is the mayor of Youngstown. Maybe one is a county commissioner. You’re just building bridges for down the road and hopefully positive changes.”

Ursuline sophomore Will Burney, a wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back, said he’s looking forward to the unity behind the project.

“That everybody is created equal,” he said. “God created everybody equal. There’s really no hate between everybody in the world. This is going to be a fun experience for everybody.”

East coach Brian Marrow said talking about social injustice is a good thing, along with learning and interacting with people different from yourself.

As of Saturday, Mahoning Valley schools involved in the project include East, Ursuline, Chaney, Niles and Warren G. Harding.

“It would be good to get everyone involved,” Marrow said. “Everyone could learn about different cultures, different teams, how they are brought up. Once you get to know everyone, I think you get along better.

“You find out you have some of the same beliefs. It’s just better once you get to know someone. When you know better, you do better.”

East senior running back Mike Barnette said the project can build a bond with other teams and players. It’s a chance to talk.

“If we all come together, a lot more stuff can get accomplished,” he said.

As for Amill, he hopes his team can host Twinsburg in July. They plan to have a seven-on-seven scrimmage and have lineman go in the weight room for a challenge — getting everyone involved.

He also wants former Warren G. Harding and Ohio State standout Maurice Clarettt to speak to both groups about diversity, being unified and the importance of team.

Amill said Hicks has a series of questions he wants teams to ask one another pertaining to race, racism and culture, bringing a discussion and a chance for both sides to understand one another.

There’s also a joint team dinner planned, sitting down as one.

“It’s really great to be able to show my boys diversity,” Amill said. “That’s one thing that I think a lot of people growing up in the inner city, you don’t get to experience. It doesn’t mean it’s done in a bad way or it’s harmful. It’s where you grow up and who you’re around. A lot of times you don’t get to experience that diversity. Even growing up for myself, even my friends who were different races that grew up in the city, we were Youngstown people.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t get to experience diversity because we did with the different cultures. I didn’t realize it until I went to Mooney how different it really is. Trying to expose them now to understand that. When they get to college and get into the real world, they’re going to have to deal with the diversity and everything that comes with it.”


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