Our last blog was dedicated to the legacy of Ken Ravizza who inspired everyone to be high achievers in sport, and more importantly, in life. Our next blog series will be on the book Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood by Jeffrey Marx. As football season approaches, we will be reminded of how the lessons on the gridiron are about more than just winning. Marx was a ballboy with the Baltimore Colts when he first met Joe Ehrmann. After looking up to Ehrmann as a larger than life NFL player, a series of events led Marx to reconnect with Joe as he was a volunteer football coach for Gilman high school. Marx’s book chronicles how Joe taught lessons well beyond the X’s and O’s of football.
One of the greatest aspects of sport is its potential to connect people. Marx emphasizes that sport creates the context for people to cross lines of diversity and work toward a common goal. Ehrmann promotes that when the concept of a team is truly embraced, you have the potential to make it special. He states, “The challenge facing us in society is how we learn to come together, across all racial, economic, and geographical divisions, to make this society a much better place.” If sport offers the opportunity to create such a meaningful community, why don’t all athletic teams experience this? Through Marx’s storytelling, Ehrmann cautions that just because teammates spend time together doesn’t necessarily mean they are making meaningful connections. He stated football can be a “pseudo-community, it’s the presence of being in community, but it’s really not being in community….it’s all environmentally driven….very few sustainable relationships come out of that.” Meaningful connections take intention, effort, and reflection.
Ehrmann emphasizes that the world typically wants to classify us by race, socioeconomic status, education level, religion, neighborhood, athletic ability, etc. Every survey we ever complete includes a box to check that classifies us in certain categories; however, it is imperative that we don’t allow ourselves to remain in those labelled boxes or treat others according to their own checked boxes. Ehrmann always promoted a program of inclusion and breaking down separation, cliques, and stereotypes. In fact, Ehrmann and the head coach of the team made a rule that no football player should ever eat lunch by himself. Can you imagine how different our society could be if we all adopted this rule and we all had the opportunity to be part of such a special group that every member actively included us?
The emphasis on potential can’t be missed here. Potential is never reached without intention and we don’t want to regret missing out on great potential. Being a member of a sport team will create opportunities to build bonds that can’t be manufactured. However, the team members must work at these relationships and cherish the gift they are given. It doesn’t mean it will always be easy. In fact, most meaningful relationships experience growth during challenging times when both parties are invested. Teammates must embrace the diversity and differences as a chance to grow and recognize how fleeting the opportunity really is. When this is accomplished, the bonds that are created are long-lasting.
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