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South St. Louis football team postpones practice to have an honest conversation about violence

At one point, Coach Porter asked his players to raise their hand if they've attended a funeral for a friend their age. Every hand went up.

ST. LOUIS — Monday was the first day, St. Louis students returned to class after the brawl and fatal shooting at the district football jamboree at Soldan High School over the weekend.

One of the teams, in the midst of the melee, took time before practice to hold a conversation about the violent summer in St. Louis.

"That ain’t normal, but in St. Louis, it’s been normalized," said Roosevelt High School Football Coach Trey Porter.

Instead of X's and O's, this was a conversation about life and death, and how his team was dangerously close to the latter.

"We didn’t want to just move forward without going over what happened, proper protocol, proper procedure when those type situations occur," Coach Porter told 5 On Your Side.

Two of Porter's Rough Riders were injured during the chaos at the District Jamboree.

Several were around when 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson was shot and killed.

RELATED: 8-year-old girl killed in shooting near Soldan High School identified

"It was just a chaotic situation," he said.

Porter's mission: to remind his team, this isn't normal even if it's becoming more common.

"With issues, you have to communicate. A lot of our kids keep so much in, they’re dealing with a lot of stress, a lot of toxic energy, a lot of trauma just built up, and I just want them to be able to vent," said Porter.

At one point, Coach Porter asked his players to raise their hand if they've attended a funeral for a friend their age.

Every hand went up.

Even when they got back to a normal practice, it became clear, Coach Porter may talk strategy on the gridiron, but mentorship is never out of bounds.

"I want them to know that somebody cares about them, I want them to know they have somebody here for them and I want them to continuously grow as men and just be successful at life," he said.

After East St. Louis football phenom Jaylon McKenzie was killed last school year, Coach Porter sketched up a new trick play.

" At that point, I told them you need to call, text or huddle message me every night -- Friday, Saturday, Sunday -- because those are the days I know I’m not going to see them the next day," said Porter.

In his mind, it's a way to prove to his players that even after the last huddle, he'll do everything he can to make things feel normal.

"I know kids that I have that don’t have that, I try to teach it to them so they can learn what normal actually looks like," said Porter.

RELATED: 'People are tired' | City leaders offer wide variety of ideas to fix violence in St. Louis

RELATED: 21 injured or killed in violence this weekend in St. Louis

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