A high school football team that competes right in the firing line of Chicago’s gun violence has adopted a novel approach to focus on football and push away its dangerous backdrop: The team’s coach locks all of his players in the school, for a full week.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Raby football coach D’Angelo Dereef spent the prior week with his entire team locked in to the school’s facilities. The event was the fifth annual lock in orchestrated by Dereef, who would rather take his team to a training camp away from Chicago, but can’t get the funding to do so.
That’s what motivated Dereef’s logic: If you can escape the tragedy and trauma of Chicago’s West Side by getting away, the best alternative is to block out the West Side altogether.
“As everybody knows, we’re right here in the heart of Garfield Park,” Dereef told the Sun-Times. “It is known for a lot of violence, a lot of shootings and a lot of children getting killed.”
Apparently the approach works. The lock-in started as a three-day event for Dereef’s players and has now expanded to run a full week. Every player has to turn over his or her cell phone upon arrival, and the team sets up camp inside the school.
By the time they’re done, the team is closer together and has escaped the day-to-day trauma that unfolds outside their windows simply by keeping the rest of that world away from them inside the safe haven of school.
“I’m going to walk away knowing that after I leave this I’ll know that the people I’m playing next to are willing to die for me,” senior cornerback Dontay Givens, who described the lock-in as a “wonderland” away from gun violence, told the Sun-Times.
Raby has high hopes for the 2018 season. After spending a week completely surrounded by his players, Dereef has them, too, both for their performance on the field and their life off it.
“It’s important,” Dereef said. “Some of them have only been as far as Six Flags. Others haven’t even been outside of the city. They need to experience life outside of Chicago so they can see they can make it out there.”