Woodland Hills School District coaches participate in unique trauma training to support athletes

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — Trauma is a common term heard in the halls of Woodland Hills School District.

“We have a disproportional number of students impacted by trauma compared to schools around us,” said Superintendent Dr. Daniel Castagna.

Looking at the data, 116 families have been impacted in some way by gun violence across the district plus add in socioeconomic needs, and sometimes extra care is needed for the students.

“The anniversary of these trauma incidents, the years after things die down, the effects and impacts they have to deal with, we have to continually try to get ahead of that,” Castagna said.

That’s exactly what the athletic department is doing. All of the coaches went through trauma training in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Center for Victims.

“How to identify those triggers and making sure we are in the best space to respond,” said Ty Brown, who’s the Woodland Hills Athletic Director.

Enlightening and informative is how these coaches describe the experience, as their students and athletes typically turn to them for help.

“Now you have to take the word mentor and stretch it. We are not only parents, family members, we are psychologists, teachers, but the hat of a coach is also expanding in different capacities when we think of trauma itself,” said Von Pitts, who’s the Woodland Hills Girls Basketball Coach.

The goal is to find ways to identify students’ needs, but the training even helped the staff who’ve gone through their own personal trauma, like Jullian Turner, who lost his younger brother in 2017.

“To even have someone who could educate myself on it and what I’m feeling, what I’m dealing with, why it happens in certain places. I mean there are triggers and I didn’t even know any of those things and even as an adult when I experienced it,” Turner said.

In the end, the hope is to implement the help as these kids hit the field and court.

“While we are training ourselves, we are giving them outlets and resources for them to turn to,” Pitts said.

Since a partnership like this has never existed before, it’s a work in progress. The hope is to have coaches go through the training each year at the start of each sport season.

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