CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - The idea came to Cleveland Heights assistant football coach, Kahari Hicks, as he considered, he said, a way to try and bring to young athletes a better understanding of what it is that makes us similar rather than what tears us apart.
Hicks came up with a program that he calls Build the Bridge and it has very quickly led to more than 60 local high school football teams planning to participate.
“We’ll bring teams together that don’t look alike, we’ll bring a white program together that might be rural with an African American program that might be urban and get the kids to sit down and interact together,” Hicks said.
Cleveland Heights head football coach Mac Stephens saw the promise in the program and Stephens and Hicks quickly went to work, calling their football contacts in the area and developing a program that all the teams involved will follow.
The day will start with an open discussion of the social and racial issues of the day followed by a workout and then the teams will sit down together for a cookout.
“The whole idea is just to get a group of high school football players and coaches together to get them to see how similar we are versus how different we are,” Stephens said.
The program has already received national and international attention, as high school coaches from around the country have called the Cleveland Heights coaches to learn more about the program and a club football team from Switzerland has asked if they could work on a virtual program with the Cleveland Heights athletes.
“We’re just trying to encourage people to build a bridge, lets bring people together and let’s just work together to understand we don’t have a lot of differences,” Hicks said.
The long term hope, Stephens said, is that relationships develop that may continue as the student-athletes work through a football season and into their lives after high school.