By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One high school football coach in Philadelphia is going above and beyond the game, making sure his players are successful both on the field and in life. CBS3’s Natasha Brown spoke with Coach Malik Jones Wednesday about how he’s just as concerned about their emotional well-being as any point scored on the field.

Coach Jones is not only teaching the game of football to his players at Martin Luther King High School, but he’s also teaching them the importance of protecting their mental health and emotional well-being, both on and off the field.

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“It’s really taboo in our community to receive mental health services so one of the things that I try to do is use it as a tool,” Jones said.

Jones has a background in behavioral health and has made it a priority to integrate counseling sessions into his football regimen.

“We actually do a bi-weekly group session and we actually are connected with ODAAP, which is Open Door Abuse Awareness and Prevention, and they come in and do a trauma awareness program,” he said.

With high-profile athletes like Eagles tackle Lane Johnson speaking out about the importance of his mental health, Coach Jones is peeling back the stigma that often comes with seeking help.

“I realized as I came into coaching, I realized that I saw a lot of the traits that I would see out in the field as a mental health professional out here on the field. And for me that was just a no-brainer to address those because I can’t make you a better athlete if I cannot touch you as a person,” he said.

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Many student-athletes on his team, are already dealing with the gravity of near-daily gun violence just outside of the walls of their school, often bringing outside trauma into a place meant to feel like a safe haven.

“A lot of them have lost personal close friends due to gun violence so it’s a very scary time. Not only is there a pandemic, as well as trying to dodge COVID, we’re also literally trying to dodge bullets,” Jones said.

Alijah Vicks has found a newfound interest in school, because of Jones.

“For school, it gave me something to actually do and made me want to do my work because for a while I just felt like school was just school like it wasn’t worth anything. And once I started playing football it gave me a meaning,” Alijah said.

Jones is creating the building blocks, one yard, one play, one score at a time to not only build a strong football team but strong young men physically, spiritually, and mentally.

“Mental health to me is an ailment just like a broken arm or broken leg. You can break, and if you don’t fix it with true help — you go to the doctor if you break your arm, you go to the doctor if you break your leg. Well, same thing for mental health. When you’re broken you need to be fixed,” Jones said.

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Jones says they also take the team on retreats so that they can bond and get to know each other and realize that they have each other to lean on.