Arlington Coach 5-0 Program Builds Bond Between Student Athletes and Police
Nov 17, 2016 05:07PM
By Melanie Heisinger
Put Me In, Coach
By Kerry Pipes
On January 12, 2015, Carl Wilson, an Arlington Martin High School football player with a promising college football career, was gunned down after school in Kennedale. It was a tragedy that has become all too common in today’s world. But Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson wanted to do something to help stem the tide of these senseless tragedies. So he approached his officers and Arlington ISD Athletic Director Kevin Ozee to discuss how the police and the district could work together.
The program began with high school football but has since evolved into all sports. The police officers are on the sidelines and in the locker rooms building relationships and helping teens cope with the pressures they often face.
Officers work with coaches to help reinforce the messages of perseverance, discipline and teamwork. These officers sacrifice their own time to encourage students to use their gifts and talents and work to help the kids discover interests and attain goals. Relationships are built on trust gained through frequent interaction and working together. They came up with a plan that assigned police officers to high school football teams and the officers began mentoring the players.
The program got its name, “Coach 5-0,” after Coach Ozee tweeted a photo of an Arlington Police officer on the sidelines with the caption “Coach 5-0.” What began in September of 2015 has continued to make a difference in the lives of Arlington ISD student athletes and has even spread to the Mansfield schools within the Arlington city limits.
Deputy Chief Jeff Petty is one of the Arlington Police officers who have been actively involved with the program since the beginning. He has been working with the Lamar High School football team. He took some time out to talk with us and tell us more about the Coach 5-0 program, where it’s headed and how it has impacted so many lives.
Tell us more about what the Coach 5-0 program is and does? The Arlington Police Department has teamed up with the Arlington ISD Athletics Department to build a winning attitude on and off the field through mentoring student athletes. Police officers partner with each high school and attend practices, workouts and games. Officers serving as mentors assist teens in making good decisions and educate them on the role of law enforcement and the importance of building positive relationships. This also affords opportunities for at-risk students to access local social services when the need arises.
How did you come to be involved with Coach 5-0? Police Chief Will Johnson presented the program as an idea to command staff last fall. The executive leadership team held a meeting with the Arlington ISD athletic director and the high school head football coaches. After attending and meeting the head football coach of Lamar High School, he invited me to practice the next day. Two officers accompanied me to practice. We introduced ourselves and told the team what we wanted to do. I have been involved in the program ever since.
What interests you most about working with Coach 5-0? The opportunity to have a positive and lasting impact in the lives of some of these young men. Too often, teens interact with police in an enforcement role or when they have been victimized. Coach 5-0 affords an opportunity for kids to get to know police officers from a humanistic standpoint on a personal level. If we can help guide one young athlete in the right direction by giving them support and encouragement, then I believe we have succeeded. I have seen this time after time with this program.
Tell us about those involved with the program. The program is open to all police officers at any rank. There is no formal structure or set of steps for the program. Officers participating have the freedom to customize their role in the program. Most of us just show up at games and practices and support the players. Some of the mentors work out with the student athletes. Others prefer to address the athletes as a group delivering educational messages and answering questions. As relationships form, one-on-one mentoring takes place. Occasionally, the coaches will solicit a mentor for a student on the team who is having difficulty in the classroom or at home. Again, the goal is to encourage students to do their best in all their activities whether in a school setting or at home.
What is your role with Coach 5-0? I am one of the team mentors for the Lamar High School football team. I was introduced to a student having significant issues and I am now one-on-one mentoring him to help ensure he has the best chances for success.
How many kids have been involved so far? Since the majority of the program is team mentoring it’s hard to say how many kids have been exposed to the program. We have some level of participation at all of the AISD schools and Mansfield schools that are in Arlington city limits. Going into the second year, we are expanding the program from just football to all athletic programs. That is not to say we have a mentor for every sport at every school but it is something we would like to eventually achieve.
What specific services does the program offer? Team mentoring and individual mentoring. We have been able to address issues within schools and families to include:
• Helping students who are homeless find a place to stay
• Connecting families in need to other community resources
• Students who have dropped out of school
• Obtaining medical care for students who don’t have the resources to address health needs
• Providing police speakers for character days
How many officers are involved? At last count, I believe we had approximately 40 officers participating.
What’s expected of the officers? Show up at games, practices and team events, be supportive, set a good example, and make a difference.
What’s expected of the kids? Our hope is that they will give us a chance, be honest and allow us to help them anyway we can.
What kind of training is involved or required? We recently received training on the basics of mentoring from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
What does it take to become a part of the program? The willingness to volunteer some of your time and a heart for our student athletes.
What goals and objectives are there for Coach 5-0?
• Increase police legitimacy among youth through positive interaction and problem-based learning
• Create and influence positive behavioral support while building sustainable relationships
• Create social awareness beyond their neighborhoods
• Connect students with caring adults through sports; fostering students’ success
• Sports provide informal opportunities to teach honesty, fairness, responsibility and respect for others
• Police mentors can clearly demonstrate character, ethics and morals through each contact
• Reduce juvenile recidivism
Why is the Coach 5-0 program so important? Police image and trust has declined in the last few years. We need a forum where we can establish relationships with our young members of the community. We need to be able to explain to them who we are, what we do and why we do it. Perhaps just as important, we need to offer them a voice to express their concerns. If we can develop those relationships and build that trust then we can use that influence to help them make better decisions. Our youth today are bombarded by negative influences such as drugs, gangs, fights and weapons. Our hope is that we can build young people of character that understand they can walk away from those things. We need the opportunity to help them understand that the fight they think they are going to may not be a fight it may be a shooting. If we can get that message across to them maybe we can prevent another tragic death such as Carl Wilson.
What do you like most about being involved with Coach 5-0? The opportunity to show these student athletes that I really care about them and want them to be successful.
What’s your best memory of being involved with Coach 5-0? Arriving at South Grand Prairie High School for the varsity game on September 2, 2016 and seeing our Coach 5-0 stickers on the back of every Lamar High School player’s helmet has to be one. Another great memory is getting home after working all night, just getting to sleep and getting a phone call from a student. He told me he needed a ride to school because he had missed the bus. I knew that a year earlier this same student would have just rolled over and gone back to sleep if he missed the bus. Of course I got him a ride to school. I went back to bed and thought, ‘Maybe this thing is really going to work.’
Anything else we should know about Coach 5-0? Most of these questions were specific to what the officers are doing. I can’t leave out what a great job our high school coaches are doing. They work countless hours, they have great attitudes and they are constantly teaching. It has been a pleasure to work with men and women who are so dedicated to their profession and to our young people.
Visit their website to learn more about the Coach 5-0 Program and the great things they are doing within the community.