Youth sports advocates huddle on South Side with strategy to combat gun violence

COACH EARNEST RADCLIFFE with two members of the Jackson Park Wolfpack.

By Joseph Phillips, Crusader Sports Editor

Coach Ernest Radcliffe, current head coach of the Morgan Park Mustangs baseball team and founder of the South Side Wolfpack football team, held a press conference on Wednesday, August 19, at Jackson Park Football Field, 6100 S. Stony Island Ave., to present Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor JB Pritzker with a plan and alternative to help curb the gun violence plaguing Chicago’s South Side communities.

During the press conference, Radcliffe gathered with medical professionals, business and community leaders, and youth sports organizations to request more resources and access to facilities to protect Chicago’s children. Organizers are currently appealing to elected officials to support their efforts to capture youth from the devastating effects of gun violence.

“Families need to know that youth sports are critical,” said Radcliffe in a press release to the Chicago Crusader. “They save lives. They teach and build character. They help gather people from all walks of life and put them in situations where they have to communicate with each other. This is a way to stop the senseless killings of our youth.”

With nearly 50 to 100 people in attendance, Radcliffe formed a community huddle across the Jackson Park football field that also included former and current Wolfpack players and parents.

Radcliffe said the community huddle was originally created by the CLIA (Coaches Leaders in Action) and was designed to help provide alternatives to combat gun violence against youth in the community. “Organizers believe that how youth spend their time out of school represents one of the most important factors for producing positive development and behavior.”

In August of 1997, Radcliffe founded the South Side Wolfpack Youth Football team and Cheer organization, which currently serves the Woodlawn, Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Shore, and Englewood communities.

Radcliffe asked for more funding and proper resources to help the youth sports organizations connect with children and teens throughout the city.

“Studies show that youth arrests decline when after-school sports programs are accessible,” said Rynell Morgan, a veteran coach and leader with the Wolfpack organization. “[And] increase when these options are not available.” A list of alumni who attended the event and were heavily impacted by the Wolfpack organization follows: Dr. Abdullah Pratt (University of Chicago); Trevor Wilkins (University Princeton); Demetrius Cooper (Michigan State University); Dedric Vaughn (Alabama A & M University); Khari Bailey (Northern Colorado University); Corey Brown (Northern Illinois University); and Jalen Mapp (University of Arkansas Pine Bluff ).

In addition to the Wolfpack alumni, several coaches and organizations also attended the event. This included Coach Terrence Sirleaf (Illinois Vikings Youth Football), Coach Gerald Harris and Coach Rodney Clark (Windy City Dolphins Youth Football and Cheer), Coach Courtland Wilson (Calumet City Chargers), Coach Shawn Hardison (MSLBA Semi-Pro Baseball), businessman Javae Wright (Leadez Organizations) and Mr. Davonta from (Lost Boys Organization).

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