In the midst of last week’s Homecoming excitement and activities, many of us took time out to consider the words of Coach Joe Ehrmann. Coach Ehrmann spoke twice at Greenhill on Wednesday, once to the seventh and eighth grades and later in the evening to all Upper School athletes and coaches.
Joe Ehrmann played in the NFL for 13 years, but it is his work after his football days that distinguishes him. He has set out to transform the culture of sports and to redefine what it means to be a man and a woman in today’s world. His words are powerful, personal, and inspirational, and our students responded enthusiastically.
Coach Ehrmann began by defining our students as symbols of hope. He challenged our students not to let others define who and what they are. He wants young people to discover how to be allies, how to support each other, and how to put aside personal gain for the greater good. Standing together against social norms, he promotes transforming rather than conforming. To him, all of life should be about relationships and how we serve humanity.
Service includes, according to Coach Ehrmann, older students serving younger ones and that there is no dignity in embarrassing or hazing.
Coupled with personal stories and examples from the media, Coach Ehrmann’s words have sparked tremendous conversation on campus. A quick debrief with eighth graders revealed that our kids listened and personalized his message.
One student said to me, “I think I need to define for myself what it means to be a man. Coaches who tell me to be a certain way are wrong. This is something I have to decide for myself.”
Another girl remarked, “He really made sense when he talked about culture and the media making decisions for us. That’s not who I really am.”
Values of respect and service permeated Coach Ehrmann’s words, and his innovative perspective combined with Greenhill’s commitment to both of these ideals gives students, teachers, and coaches a new approach to influencing young people and each other. The conversation will continue.