By, Joe Kenn | VP of Education & Performance
At times, negative societal actions enhance a symbolic awareness of how much we have yet to learn about living with one another. This past week, we have seen once again how injustice has sparked the debate of power, color, and how we interact with those who are different from ourselves.
As a white coach who has predominantly coached people of color, specifically black men, I am fully aware of the real-life issues they deal with that I can’t even fathom. As I have tried to be understanding to their displeasure and pain when there is harm done to someone of their own race, I have now begun to question myself. Was I actually listening, comprehending the truth of what goes on in their lives, was I actually aware?
Chris Morgan, FCA Chaplain and Player Engagement Liaison at University of Louisville, was quoted as saying “I can see behind the helmet” when discussing his relationships with the athletes on the U of L campus. This quote has resonated with me since he said it, even more so now as I listen and read all the athletes coming forward with the sentiments on the atrociousness of what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The famous Theodore Roosevelt quote “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much your care” is extremely popular with coaches. I have repeatedly said this phrase too many times to count. Now, I question myself on how much did I care and was I seeing behind the helmet. I have sat and had council with numerous athletes throughout my career regardless of race, color, ethnicity, and it takes something so negative in society that effects people I hold in high regards, to really dig deep and ask, how much did I really care? And more importantly, did I care about what was really happening behind the helmet.
I was born and raised in Inwood, NY. A lower to middle class town with hard working people of all races. I lived around the corner from low income housing and was introduced to people of color as long as I can remember. And now, as a middle-aged man, I am challenged to understand for how much growth it looks like our society has made, that in truth we are still reminded how much we further we must go.
As I continue my goal to make a significant impact for coaches in their careers, it is important for me to reflect and analyze my own actions in the platform I have been given. I must improve my overall awareness that those that don’t look like me, have a different outlook and opinion of the world around us. And for my athletes, past, present, and future to truly look more into helping the athlete behind the helmet.