Tim Elmore, in his great book, “Generation iY”, writes about the fact that this iY Generation of young people has missed out on the “empathy gene”. They seem to struggle with understanding how their actions can impact, for both good and bad, the lives of others. You have to wonder if they are unable to figure it out or just don’t care. It is easy to look around at the present time and see example after example of people that lack empathy. I wonder if either of our presidential candidates would stop to help me out of a mess like the “good” Samaritan did in Luke, Chapter 10.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the other social media highways are full of hateful, spiteful, and angry attacks on just about anyone and anything. 52% of young people admit to being bullied on the internet, 11% have had embarrassing photos posted on the internet, and 95% of teenagers that see bullying, ignore it. Studies in Britain show that 1/2 of teen suicides are the result of bullying. In the U.S, it is estimated that 30,000 students stay home every day because of how they are treated by their peers.
One of my heroes is Joe Ehrmann, the author of book, “InsideOut Coaching”. In his book, (and also in Jeffrey Marx’s book, “A Season of Life”) Joe explains the basic idea that sports can transform for good the lives of young athletes if coaches, parents, and administrators work together to achieve that goal.
Joe’s coaching philosophy is very simple. “I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity, who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good.”
I am not easily shocked, but when it comes to horrible things that people have done and said via the internet, I have been shocked many times. For many people, it seems as if the “empathy” gene just didn’t get passed down properly to the people that rant and rave on the internet. Listen to sports talk radio and you can hear grown men attack and ridicule a 19 or 20 year-old college athlete. What ever happened to the thought that “if you wouldn’t say it to his face, don’t say it?”
As a coach, we try to take a holistic approach to coaching. If our athletes need more speed, we try to find ways to get them faster. If they need more strength, we try to find programs that will get them stronger. If our athletes need to become more empathetic, then we need to find ways to teach them to become more empathetic. That is one of our goals for this football season. We want to follow Joe’s lead and “help boys become men of empathy and integrity, who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good. I have no doubt that reaching that goal might be harder than the goals we have set for ourselves on the field.
Our coaches have come up with several great ideas that we can implement into our program to help teach our players empathy. It just sounds so simple. Put yourself in someone else’s situation and treat them the way you would want people to treat you.
In the late 1960’s, we didn’t have the internet or social media, but we did have an alternative. It was called a slambook. I remember during my 9th grade year at Duncan Junior High(Go Little Demons!), I saw my first ever “Slambook”. It was a simple notebook, with a sign-in sheet at the front in which everyone signing the book had to come up with a creative pseudonym so they could remain anonymous. Then, at the top of each page was a name and below that name, you wrote what you thought about that person. To get things rolling, the first name at the top of the page would be someone like the principal of the school. It was usually not very pretty what we (9th graders) thought about our principal. Then, there would be some popular teachers and some unpopular teachers and eventually, the 9th graders themselves.
I remember turning the pages with great anticipation, wondering if my name was at the top of one of those pages and what my peers might write about me. Some of the comments about some other 9th graders were not too nice, but really pretty tame compared to this day and age. After going through about 10-12 pages, I SAW IT! Ricky Jones. (I opted for the much more mature version, Rick Jones, when we moved to Ardmore, Oklahoma for my sophomore year) I read that I was an okay guy, decent athlete, and then I saw it, written in purple ink. “ALMOST AS GOOD LOOKING AS JIMMY EDWARDS”. Now I played football with Jimmy Edwards and remember wrestling against him when we were in elementary school. I’m not telling who won, but I will say that Jimmy gave me a good look at the underside of the roof structure of the gymnasium that day. Looking back, I would guess that Jimmy was a nice looking 9th grade kid. I would even accept the fact that if you showed our picture to 1,000 people, 999 of them would say he was better looking. (assuming one of the 1,000 was my mom)
What I couldn’t accept was the purple ink. The purple ink was the trademark ink color for none other than Elaine Morga_. (I have graciously not used her whole name so as not to embarrass her) Elaine was a fellow 9th grader and it just so happened that she was my girlfriend at the time. I should also mention the fact that she was the former girlfriend of aforementioned, Jimmy Edwards.
That was not the best day of my 9th grade year.
It didn’t ruin my life, but it did create a memory that has lasted almost 50 years.
My hope is that we can help about 90 young men in Greenwood, Arkansas, this season become men of empathy and integrity, who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good. I guess I should thank Elaine for the inspiration.
Hey Elaine? Want to be friends on Facebook?