SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Local youth coaches gathered at the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club to address the Savannah Gators incident that happened December 7 in Florida.
The video has been viewed thousands of times. Gerrel Williams, hitting a youth football player from the Gators twice in the head, screaming at him, and pushing him off the field. It drew criticism from people across the country, even reaching the likes of Savannah State alum and NFL analyst Shannon Sharpe and NBA superstar LeBron James.
“We in Savannah do not tolerate abusing kids,” said Rajah Simmons, a coach with the Boys and Girls Club.
The coaches stood together to say they don’t condone that behavior, and to let the community know that isn’t what youth sports are about.
None of these coaches said they knew Gerrel Williams personally.
“We want to be a part of the solution. Not part of the problem, and all of us want to make sure that the kids are safe,” said Cleve Jones, a coach with the West Side Whippers.
They say it has damaged the reputation of Savannah sports.
“You know, I got phone calls from people all around, ‘Man, that’s how y’all do it in Savannah?’ No. We don’t do it like that. We don’t do it like that,” said Howard Bailey, a coach with the Savannah Stars. “We do it the right way, and that’s showing kids, teaching kids life skills.”
Some coaches said they empathize with both sides, and hope everyone, including Williams, can learn from the incident.
“It could have been me,” said Todd Rhodes, a coach with the Savannah Royal Lions. “It could have been any one of us, but learn from it. You know, I feel like this was very-much a warning, but this does not represent Savannah.”
Rhodes added that other coaches should hold each other accountable, and pull one another aside before things get to that point.
“I feel sorry for both sides,” said Stanley Mosley, a coach with the River Boys. “I’m quite sure he didn’t expect for things to go this way it is as far as the coach, and you know, also what the child had to endure and go through, you know, being a part of that incident, so we just want to make sure we’ve got the right people in place.”
They say that some of these organizations start working with kids as early as three-years-old.
At the Boys and Girls Club as well as Chatham County Parks and Recreations or the City of Savannah, coaches undergo a background check and interviews, and do national safety training, and regular meetings.
Coaches also added to research who will be instructing your child.
The coaches said that they don’t think any additional training or background checks are required, because this was an isolated incident.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department did say they plan to bring charges against Williams. WTOC is still working to learn what he is being charged with.