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Remembering Jalani Sanders, 40, inspirational York High School coach who motivated athletes

Jalani Sanders
Jalani Sanders

As a former football player and a U.S. Army captain, Jalani Sanders brought much to the table when it came to coaching at York High School.

Coach Sanders worked with the school’s football team and track and field athletes. He motivated the students, and in return they gave him the utmost respect. He demanded their best, but took the time to speak one-on-one with any student not performing at the top of their game. He gave all of himself to the athletic department.

In short, he was a great coach.

Coach Sanders died Sept. 3, 2015, at the age of 40.

Coach Sanders worked alongside Coach Jim Bradley, head coach of the York High track and field team, as his assistant, working with students who ran sprints and jumped hurdles, and was “a great asset to the program,” Bradley said.

“He was a great motivator,” Bradley said. “He pushed them, but knew when to back off.”

Coach Sanders was a captain in the U.S. Army and Bradley was a retired chief with the Coast Guard. With their military backgrounds, Bradley said the two men took a tough approach to coaching, expecting no less than 100 percent from the athletes. Coach Sanders was the informal “good cop” to Bradley’s “bad cop” routine, Bradley said.

Communication with the parents fell onto Coach Sanders’ lap and Bradley said he never worried about it. Coach Sanders would come to practice, always on time and ready to go, with spreadsheets in hand. In any difficult situation, Coach Sanders handled it with dignity and grace.

“The thing about Jalani was there wasn’t one specific thing that stood out,” Bradley said. “He was such an inspiration.”

Coach Douglas Pereira, the head football coach at York High School, agreed. He worked with Coach Sanders for the past three years and said he was “an integral part of our program” where he assisted the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He was also the “film breakdown coach,” watching games in preparation for future opponents, Pereira said. Coach Sanders had planned to continue watching playback films from afar this season while living in Houston.

“Jalani was loved and respected by our players as he was such a good person with them,” Pereira said.

York High School Athletic Director John Ashley said what sticks out most in his memories of Coach Sanders is his positivity and half-grin. Many of the track and field students Coach Sanders worked with had to jump over hurdles, Ashley said, and he used his positive attitude to help them push deep within themselves to achieve these goals.

“He was there whether he was paid or volunteering or just to help the athletic department out in general,” Ashley said. “He cared about the development of today’s youth.”

In addition to track and field and football, Ashley said Coach Sanders also kept score for basketball games and officiated games for local youth leagues.

“He was just a great human being,” Ashley said. “York High School sends out our deepest sympathies. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He really is going to be missed by all.”

On Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, Bradley met with the track and field team at practice and gave a speech about what a great man Coach Sanders was. The team held a moment of silence in remembrance of Coach Sanders.

“On September 3, my staff and I lost a true and loyal friend,” Pereira said. “While we are mourning his loss today, we also celebrate the fact that we have been blessed to have Jalani Sanders as a part of our Falcon football family.”

Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, at Klein Funeral Home, 9719 Wortham Blvd., Houston, TX 77065. A funeral service will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at the funeral home.

To view the full list of WYDaily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for WYDaily. Reach her at ​757-565-1079 ext. 222 or

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