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COVID Comeback Season: Catching up with Coach V

Valencia Peterson, otherwise known as Coach V, joins the Heat Ratio Sports Network in conjunction with Philly Influencer to touch on the COVID Comeback Series.

This series spotlights the challenges and triumphs of two high school football teams and their coaches who find themselves back on the field as COVID-19 restrictions continue to alleviate. This series captures stories through the eyes, ears, and heart of Valencia Peterson, widely known in her Philadelphia neighborhood as, simply, “Coach V.” Here’s her story.

Tony Cutillo: COVID-19 took this world by storm and continues to cause havoc in various sectors of life. One of the hardest-hit parts of society has been the student-athlete. What have you seen over the last few years that scares you in regards to our young athletes?

Coach V: “When the pandemic first began, we knew we had to stay connected with our young men. I had just had a team out to my camp due to the murder of one of their teammates in the middle of the pandemic. Coach called and we just made it happen rented vehicles got the guys all out of the city masks and all. Having to look beyond the circumstances of Covid was a reality for me. I knew that if we didn’t do something more young men might die or just get so lost. What scares me is how their identity is so wrapped up in sports some desperately believe it’s their only way out. When that is taken away it leaves such a hopeless feeling that can lead to other harmful things.”

How has remote learning and remote instruction coupled with the cancelation of sports games impacted our student-athletes?

“Most of our kids that do sports are really hungry for community. The bond that is created is what helps shape their worldview. They learn to work together, handle conflict and be resilient. Being isolated and not having sports as an outlet has increased depression among our Athletes and in some sense great loss especially if it was their last year to play the sport. The other side of the coin is after being isolated it can sometimes be hard to jump back in.”

One of the strongest powers within us is mental stability. How has the pandemic damaged and altered the minds of our younger athletes?

“There is nothing like not knowing as well as the unpredictability of where you are. Our young people thrive when they know what to expect even if it is chaos. This pandemic has left us all wondering what’s next crossing our fingers that we will finally get over on Covid and get back to normal but we see that hasn’t happened yet. The roller coaster of emotions I have seen in my players that had a game schedule for the following day canceled because of Covid can be heartbreaking because just when they think we are good to go another monkey wrench gets thrown in. All they want to do is play.”

You mention that a lot of young athletes will not come out and admit something isn’t right. How do you teach them to understand that it’s OK to not be OK?

“Speaking to my players about where they are takes a lot of building. It has taken me years in some cases to earn the right to ask in order to say it’s ok not to be okay. I have started with a player in the ninth grade. He is not opening up to me. There are two things he is looking for sincerity and commitment. Until then he will not open up. So the first thing I work on is building a relationship with that team. In most cases, other players who have been in the program longer give the signal that I can be trusted and from there I can come in and do a workshop or have one on ones. I try to meet them where they are even if it means just standing next to them in silence.”

Sports are powerful. Sports can change mindsets and alter mental health in a positive way. As we dive deeper into these analytics, you are a firm believer that Sports can also Heal Trauma. Can you elaborate on your experiences and insight into how this is possible?

“I will never forget the interaction I had with the young man( that is now the VP of my organization ODAAP) when he was in the ninth grade. He was experiencing abuse from his dad. I had no idea what was going on but I knew how vital it was for him to be a part of that team. Through working with him and creating a safe space he was finally able to speak about what was going on with him. Which is the very beginning of healing. Being a part of a healthy team can really provide a family-like atmosphere and safety.”

Let’s talk about ODAAP. You are the Founder of Open Door Abuse Awareness and Prevention. How did your vision become reality?

“My vision became a reality when I met Nick Lincoln head Coach at the time of Penn Wood High school. I say that because he was the first Coach to see the value in the program I was bringing in.

“He embraced my program and his team went from a losing team to winning District 1 Class 6A playoff berth.”

You can read about that here.

If you can look ahead a few years, what can you hope to change for these young athletes when it comes to their health and awareness?

“I hope that they normalize therapy. Or grasping the need to have that person or healthy thing you take yourself to for safety. I also want them to understand they can break the cycle of whatever disfunction/ trauma they have experienced that it doesn’t have to define them.”

Fast-forwarding a few months, what is on tap for Coaching with Courage?

“We will be preparing for our annual camp where teams come out for what I call our trauma-informed play therapy Beyond the Game camp! This is always the highlight with all the teams ODAAP works with throughout the year. They forward to it.”

I would like to personally thank Coach V for taking the time to join the program and look forward to having her back on again to discuss the progress of Coach with Courage. Follow all her initiatives (@odaapinc) on Twitter and Instagram!

You can catch the whole series on all (@WithoutViolence) social media pages. Below is the entire lineup for your viewing pleasure.

November 10 (Introduction video):

November 12:

November 16:

November 21:

November 24:

November 29:

December 1:

December 6:

As always you can stop by my Facebook page (Heat Ratio Sports) or tweet me (@TCutillo23) for questions or some nice fantasy/real sports debates. E-mail me at [email protected].

You can listen to Heat Ratio Sports on Anchor and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here.

Subscribe, rate, and review all Philly Influencer podcasts here. Follow Philly Influencer on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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