“As everybody knows, we’re right here in the heart of Garfield Park,” Dereef said. “It is known for a lot of violence, a lot of shootings and a lot of children getting killed.”
Dereef started the lock-in four years ago. He wanted to take his kids away to camp, similar to what he had experienced growing up as a high school football player in South Carolina. Dereef says the experience of going away is invaluable because it allows the players to dream outside of Chicago, outside of the the West Side.
Going out of town isn’t in Raby’s budget so Dereef decided to bring the camp to his kids.
It started as a three-day experience and is now an entire week. After getting permission from their guardians, the team walked into Raby on the morning of the first practice of the season. They turned over their phones and set up camp.
The gym turned into the sleeping quarters and the air mattresses were separated by teams.
“We’re all separated into categories that will help us in the long run,” senior linebacker Byron Puryear said. “There’s team pride, team enthusiasm, team process, team power, team effort and team knuckleheads.”
Dereef’s idea is to surround players who need to focus on effort, for example, by other teammates who will push them to be better.
Senior cornerback Dontay Givens described the football practice “lock-in” as a wonderland away from all of the gun violence plaguing Chicago.
“They are coming from single parent households and parents dealing with substance abuse issues,” Rick Jackson, Raby team mentor, said. “They go to bed hungry a lot. While they’re here we feed them, we take care of them and we protect them from everything outside.”
Days begin with breakfast followed by a morning practice. The Raby coaching staff walks their team to the practice field located a mile away at Garfield Park. After the morning practice the team refuels with lunch.
Lunch is followed up with an afternoon nap. On the second floor of Raby you’ll find them in their sleeping quarters doing everything but sleeping. This is the time they spend bonding and sharing stories.
On Friday, the final day of camp, each member of the team will share a detailed story about their life. It ranges from struggles experienced at home to the loss of loved ones. There will be laughter and tears. Dereef says they’ll be bonded for life.
“I’m going to walk away knowing that after I leave this I’ll know that the people I’m playing next to are willing to die for me,” Givens said.
Dereef hopes he’ll eventually be able to take his team outside the city limits for preseason camp. It will take funding from Chicago Public Schools and the community, but he’s optimistic it will happen.
“It’s important,” Dereef said. “Some of them have only been as far as Six Flags. Others haven’t even been outside of the city. They need to experience life outside of Chicago so they can see they can make it out there.”
More high school football stories:
- Former Mount Carmel Coach Frank Lenti joins a rival school
- Raby makes the Sun-Times Super 25
- Beth Long’s summer recruiting notebook
- Sun-Times launches “Game Week” livestream show
Want the latest info and analysis on high school football? Our preps team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and Annie Costabile will share all the latest news, insights and Super 25 football rankings in a new livestream show called “Sun-Times Game Week.” Our next preview show is Aug 20 at 4:30 p.m., then the regular season livestream show will be every Monday at 6:30 p.m. starting August 27. Like and follow our high school sports Facebook page to watch the show on FACEBOOK LIVE. You can also ask questions using the hashtag #SunTimesGameWeek.