Coach Edwin Gawuala coaches the 9U team for the nonprofit, New York youth football program the Brooklyn Saints

By Lindsay Kimble
February 04, 2021 03:02 PM
We Are the Brooklyn Saints
We Are the Brooklyn Saints
| Credit: Netflix

Coach Edwin Gawuala wasn't sure, at first, about letting cameras into his life and into the lives of the kids he coaches on the Brooklyn youth football league the Brooklyn Saints.

"I was nervous at first for cameras in my face and neighborhood," Gawuala tells PEOPLE of the team being filmed for new Netflix documentary series We Are the Brooklyn Saints. "Where we come from, when you've got cameras around, cameras are to work against you."

He quickly felt at ease with the Netflix docuseries' Emmy-winning director Rudy Valdez, though.

"Valdez made me feel comfortable, welcome," Gawuala says.

Gawuala coaches the 9U team for the nonprofit, New York youth football program. The Saints are made up of 7- to 13-year-old boys who have become more than just a team — they're family. The series follows the young men and their coaches as they bond, learn, grow and, of course, play football in hopes of a championship win.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The coach tells PEOPLE that he made sure the kids' lives and routines weren't interrupted by filming, saying, "We just went out there, did what we had to do. I tried to explain to them, all we had to do was keep the focus on the fundamentals of football, the games we got coming up, practices that'd be important. And they caught on to what I was preaching to them."

The league was founded back in 2008, and Gawuala has been with the team almost since the start. His role of coach extends far beyond just football guidance, which is obvious throughout the series.

We Are the Brooklyn Saints
| Credit: Netflix

"I'm a role model," he tells PEOPLE. "It's a good feeling for them to look at me as one ... The love and the bond that we have for each other is priceless."

And while he's always conscious of the young eyes on him, Gawuala — who will continue to coach the team once their 2021 season begins, if possible amid the pandmeic — says it never feels like too much pressure.

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday. Get a taste of the podcast below.

"When it comes from the heart, it's never too much," the coach explains. "That's just the bottom line. And it's no pressure. ... When you're dealing with kids, at times you've got to put whatever you're going through to the side and just come from the heart. And when it comes from the heart, it's genuine."

RELATED VIDEO: Washington Football Team Coach Rings Bell After Completing Cancer Treatments

It's a "good feeling" to make sacrifices for the team, Gawuala says, admitting he'd do anything for a smile from his little athletes. And he's thrilled the series captures that.

"It was a beautiful, beautiful series," Gawuala says.

We Are the Brooklyn Saints is streaming on Netflix now.