Rudy Valdez’s Netflix Docuseries on Youth Football Features Motivational Puerto Rican Coach

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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We Are: The Brooklyn Saints  is an upcoming Netflix docuseries on an inner-city youth football program in Brooklyn and the coaches who give young kids, ages 7-13, a safe place to play, bond with one another and compete in a sport they enjoy.

The four-part documentary series is directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker Rudy Valdez, whose 2018 documentary film The Sentence told the story of his sister’s 15-year incarceration and the impact it had on his family.

“Growing up, I rarely saw people who looked like me as the heroes of their own stories,” Valdez told Variety in December 2020. “This deeply impacted me as a person, and now as a filmmaker. [The docuseries] was an opportunity to feature the lives of our main characters with agency and from their own perspective; rather than the one often assumed for them.”

Along with the young football players, one of the main subjects of the film is Puerto Rican Coach Gawuala, who has been with the Brooklyn Saints program since its inception in 2009. During the docuseries, Coach Gawuala is described as the “heart and soul of our organization.”

“He’s the one that brings out the eagerness and the drive and determination in them kids,” says “Demel,” the Saints president. “He makes them believe that they can do anything, they can be anybody at any given time. If Gawuala told some kids that they could fly, they’d go home and say, ‘Mommy, Daddy, I can fly because Gawuala said I could fly.’”

Raised by a single mother, Coach Gawuala explains during the first episode of the series about how he was “lost in life” and “reckless” as a child. It’s something he works on every day to make sure his players aren’t put into the same situation.

“You basically raise a lot of these kids,” Gawuala says. “They definitely become yours, and a piece of your heart. I just feed off the energy they give me and try to make a positive out of it.”

We Are: The Brooklyn Saints premieres on Netflix Jan. 29.