A Coach In The Kill Zone: Coaching Up The Underdogs In East Oakland

As soon as Pablo Sandoval caught the foul-out for the Giants Wednesday night, the city of San Francisco went wild for its team had won the World Series. Along with the excitement and ecstasy, however, came pandemonium, and not because everyone wanted to especially cheer on Sandoval. Mattresses on fire in the Mission, fireworks on King Street and too many people arrested for over-celebrating the victory. It’s unfortunate that this great sports achievement has negativity and violence associated with it. Why can’t there be civility and good celebration for such a success? With all the rigmarole happening around the world right now, does there really need to be such chaos for something so exciting? The reflection of the fans going a little too wild about sports is not one to encourage, especially with youthful fans watching as well.

Thankfully, on the other side of the bridge, Grit Media opens us up to the life of Edward Washington, who is trying to do the opposite and show the positivity that comes from athletics. His focus is on the teens attending Castlemont High School in Oakland, specifically the boys on the football team. To be frank, this school is not some place you would ever want to send your kids; in Washington’s words, it’s a “kill zone,” surrounded by violence, poverty, and not many ways out of it. So, Washington chooses to go back to his alma mater, having comparable experiences to the teenagers’ situations and lives, and represent how positivity, hard work and dedication can be the ticket out.

Mentally preparing these kids and pushing them to strive for more in their academic and athletic lives provide the structure and discipline they search for. By having them wake up early, enforcing class and practice attendance, and encouraging them to participate in offseason sports, Washington is breaking the cycle and teaching the teens how much they can achieve if they just focus. He helps create a brotherhood for a group of kids who do not have the love, trust and support some of us take for granted daily.

This guy is dedicating time to these kids because he knows all too well the experiences they face. Although we as outsiders look at the situation with what we think is empathy, we can never really know the true adversity these kids face. And for him, actually having lived such a similar situation in the same place is what drives Washington to follow his passion for coaching the athletes at his alma mater.

He shows us the reality of what’s really going on for some kids, and gives us a look into the lives of others whom we probably never think about as we buy our Starbucks coffee and check our Facebook. The inspiration that comes from seeing a person actively trying to change the lives of young athletes is incredible.

"Sports is only important because it grabs the attention of the youth ... I'm trying to build these dudes' lives. Let's guide you right. And then making sure you doing everything in your power to get out of here, experience things, and bring your ass back and change the dynamics at the Castlemont in your community. That's what this shit is about."

Washington dedicates himself to leading these kids out of a life that would be like a nightmare for some, while simultaneously teaching them how to approach life after high school. And seeing Washington receive a load of satisfaction and care from what he does is a reminder that there is more outside of the computer screen this font is appearing on or which bar to watch the game at. In some ways, he is also encouraging us to find our own passions in life and use them to better those around us. Because that is what really matters.

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