COEUR d’ALENE — His youth football team had just been humbled in the final game of the season, 24-0, so Coach Paul Maland carried the humility theme a little further.

He approached opposing Coach Vance Mitchell and made a proposal. Mitchell agreed, and the two gathered their third-and fourth-grade teams for a postgame prayer on Person Field. Players from opposing teams interlocked arms, knelt and prayed.

“This was an opportunity to challenge the kids to step up for leadership on and off the field,” the 28-year-old Maland explained. “At the end of the day, it’s about being brothers beyond what happens on the football field.”

Maland said he wasn’t trying to make a political statement on the NFL controversy involving players and the national anthem, but he was attempting to give the youngsters some perspective.

“From how much we idolize the NFL and the sway it can have in kids’ lives, I wanted them to see they can stand up for what they believe in — and do it together,” said Maland. “I played in the Coeur d’Alene Junior Tackle League. I never remember what my record was or the score of any game, but I do remember how I felt.”

Maland, who played football for Coeur d’Alene High School, Mesa Community College and Arizona State University, didn’t force the kids to pray.

“I said if anybody’s uncomfortable or wouldn’t like to participate in the prayer aspect of it, just link up with your brother and you can keep your eyes up, keep your head up,” he told The Press. “Not everybody has the same background or point of view.”

Looking back on that Oct. 4 postgame experience, Maland, who’s also a Coeur d’Alene Junior Tackle board member, said he feels good about the outcome and hopes the kids do, too.

“There’s a lot of division these days,” he said. “I felt like this was an opportunity to unite a community and unite a generation.”

Read the entire article at Coeur d’Alene Press.

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