By Ken Reed
“Success comes in terms of relationships. Success is measured by the impact you make on other people’s lives. And I think the second criterion is that all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants and desires. Life’s about relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself. Simple as that.”
— Joe Ehrmann, former NFL All-Pro, motivational speaker, and volunteer high school football coach
One of my favorite sports books, Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx, is also a book about coaching, parenting, and character building. The book is built around the coaching style of former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann.
Ehrmann is now a motivational speaker and seminar leader who’s working to change the culture of sports. He is the type of youth sports coach you wish you had as a kid and certainly want for your children.
He truly cares about his players as people first and athletes second. Ehrmann builds strong personal relationships that create an atmosphere of trust, on and off the field. His players know that he’s more interested in building winning human beings than winning teams. They know that for Erhmann, winning on the scoreboard is a worthy goal to strive for but certainly not the end all. (Nevertheless, Ehrmann’s teams are consistent winners when it comes to win-loss records and have won multiple league titles.) Most importantly, however, under Ehrmann, the football field is a classroom where the game of life is taught.
Coaching – especially at the youth and high school levels — is as much about relationship building as it is about sport knowledge and the ability to teach fundamental sport-specific skills.
Ehrmann’s coaching style exemplifies this. He focuses more on building character and teaching sportsmanship than the proverbial X’s and O’s. His coaching goals are to foster relationships, develop other-centered young people, build a football family and maximize each player’s talent.
Ehrmann’s definition of success is noteworthy because it disregards traditional measures of success: money, athletic accomplishments, awards, and material things like houses, cars and clothes. It focuses on what you contribute to the major relationships in your life – husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, etc. In the sports realm, it’s about being a good teammate. Ehrmann’s definition also emphasizes giving of yourself to a worthy cause that encompasses more than personal interests.
Joe Ehrmann has been called “the most important coach in America” by Parade magazine.
The more you learn about his coaching philosophy the more difficult it is to argue with that statement.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon