The South Garland Colonels did not win many football games in 2017. The mission for head coach Josh Ragsdale is to make men — young men who play hard on the gridiron, but also, in his words, be a man and sign a pledge against domestic violence.
"Our initial plan was to get people talking about it to raise the awareness, and I really think it saved some of our kids' lives," Ragsdale said.
"It's a bigger problem than people put forth," said defensive back Kyler Kinsey. "Before he introduced the pledge, you hardly ever talked about domestic violence."
One in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury for women ages 15 to 44.
Ragsdale says not all of his players knew exactly what domestic violence was.
"We had them give their definition of domestic violence," he said. "They wrote it on their note card. I went into the office, and the first one I read said it's what happens when my mom doesn't act right. And I knew right then and there we had a greater calling and greater mission rather than just the game of football, and we had a chance to teach life."
Four years ago, while coaching at Dallas' Adamson High School, Ragsdale and his players came up with the simple pledge on a sheet of paper. After the words, "I pledge to help stop domestic violence because ..." the player would fill in the rest of the sentence and say why they are pledging to help stop domestic violence. And they have someone take a photo of them holding the pledge sheet.
Ragsdale found support from his players at South Garland.
"I want it to stop," said running back J.T. Turner. "I want everybody to take the pledge and realize that domestic violence is wrong."
"I thought it was a great idea," Kinsey added. "I've been around it quite a bit [domestic violence]. It's been in my life, with my friends and my family. So it was a pretty big deal for me when he brought it up. I was instantly committed, and I wanted to get everybody else on board."
Ragsdale had half of his team volunteer and pledge. What Ragsdale started in Dallas has spread across the country. His office has the prideful photos to prove it.
The Colonels finished the football season with a losing record of 1-9. In the eyes of their coach, they had another win off the field.
"Seeing the reaction of other teams, seeing people from out of the state take the pledge, getting phone calls from people that have no connection to the city of Garland and just want to say to our young men you are doing a great job — as a coach, as a father, that is a gigantic win," Ragsdale said. "And to them, too, I think it is."