It's hard work, and frankly – not everyone is cut out for it. Taking over a
Glenville program that was not considered a power by anyone's definition, Ted Ginn has built them into a powerhouse. Like Rome, it hasn't been done overnight,
and he has had more than his share of critics, but he has done well. He has
survived those who would have seen him exiled (or at least dethroned) and is now
not just winning but sending players to Division I-A schools on a frequent
basis. He has done so well that he is now regularly attracting attention from
They don't interest him.
According to Ginn, "I tell them like I am telling you, I don't coach for a career to get better jobs as far as money goes. I coach for a purpose. My purpose is to make a difference in the world and make a difference in Cleveland. I just think I am trying do a model of saving kids life through doing what I do – coaching football and track and educate the kids – doing the things necessary when you say you are a coach. ‘Coach' to me means everything; I think you do it all because it plays such a big part in someone's life. Sports and education are like that. We make a difference in lives and trying to raise them up to be men and women. That is the way I feel and what I think my job is."
We spoke about what he has done and is trying to do on a Sunday afternoon, and Ginn's reaction was typical.
He graciously shared an hour of his time during the interview speaking of the hurdles he must help his players leap to make it out of Cleveland and pointed out, "The average coach on Sunday is, ‘Don't call me. Don't talk to me about the kids (on Sunday). I'm different. You better talk to me because we have to make a difference."
At first blush, that might sound a little arrogant. However, there's no doubt about it -- this isn't arrogance or bravado when he says he is different; he really is. How many people would not have already taken the proverbial ‘better job' or ‘better paycheck' years ago? How many people would even take the job to begin with and all but adopt kids who have seen more troubles than a Johnny Cash tune?
What Ted Ginn, Sr. does as part of his job as the head football coach at Glenville High School, and more importantly – outside of his job – is like laboring in a cotton field in the Mississippi summer. Maybe, since he has done just that, he knows what is at stake. Maybe Ginn appreciates even more than the average man just what the consequences are for those who ‘don't make it' and those that ‘slip through the cracks.'
"We are walking past so many great people in this world," he pointed out as he talked about why he sticks it out in his present setting. "People never understand the stories and we miss them. We are losing generations and losing some great, great people because nobody has the time to listen or understand the story of the people."
Ginn wants to know those stories. He has decided enough is enough and instead of simply shaking his head and clicking his tongue or even publicly scolding those who don't measure up to societal standards, he believes they can be saved. One might even say that he is on a crusade, bent on making converts and believers whenever and wherever he can.
So what is he teaching those young men? What does he try to tell them and what values is he seeking to instill in them while they are directly under his tutelage?
"First of all – trust," Ginn said. "Trust me. Trust somebody. Then the secret weapon to all of that is having faith. The average kid from the urban setting – nobody is teaching them to own anything. They are teaching them ‘if you can make it through here' or ‘get a good job,' but nobody has a plan to show them how and show them the components to make it happen. I'm talking unbelievable stuff."
Trusting and having faith fly directly in the face of modern culture. That means there are those who are always present – trying to cut him down.
"Some other person comes in (to my players) and says, ‘Man, that guy doesn't know what he is talking about. He didn't go to college. He's not educated.' People do that to our children. That's the reason I have to be an advocate to our kids. I've been going through this for years. What do you tell them? You got to keep having faith and trust me."
Ginn admitted, "Right now, my son doesn't even trust everything I say. You can never assume a kid knows anything. You have to make sure in today. You think Troy (Smith) trusts me every day? No!"
Part of it of course is that we raise children to become adults. The natural progression of life is to watch as adults do and then eventually, young people do on their own – for good or for ill.
Ginn knows this and strives for maturity in decision making for his players but cautions, "They are going to make decisions and they can be the wrong decisions because we put that kind of pressure on them. We need to teach the kids how to lean on us and how when it is time to make a decision, the decision to make is to go to your resources before I make the decision. You don't make that decision on your own experiences. You try to teach them how to make a decision and the decision that needs to be made is to always ask."
The danger is young men who are full of confidence in their abilities and learned young not to trust can and will turn aside from those who love them and only seek the best for them.
If it wasn't already patently obvious, the process doesn't end for Ginn when he sends his players off to college.
"Right now, I have to talk to Troy, Ted, Donte, Jamario, Curtis Terry, Pierre Woods…This is an ongoing process. When you get involved with children and then think you can take some time off… Never. Then I have 105 at Glenville. I'm talking about my kids because I get up every day ready to do something. Every day. Whether it be a kid in college, a kid out of college, a kid that is married, a kid who a freshman or an eighth grader – this is a daily business if you are doing it the right way. I have the problem now – my situation changes from coaching Troy, Ted, Donte Whitner in high school to coaching in college and after college. I'm still coaching. It doesn't stop. We're not talking about grown men. We keep saying they are grown, but (they're not)."
In order to help that process Ginn makes the attempt to keep in touch with the colleges where his players – his kids – have signed a letter of intent.
"I try to stay close with every staff where my kids are at," Ginn said. "Somewhere down the line I will pick up the phone and say to them, ‘This is what I think. I'm telling you how he is, how to coach him up.' Whether they do it or not, that's them, but I try to keep a communication line."
Again, maybe this is a red flag for some who don't know him, and they may be tempted to ask, ‘Is this one of those proverbial coaches who meddles?' After all, those who are convinced of the rightness and even righteousness of their actions often fall in that category. They, through their own success, can often come to believe they have the answers, all the answers, and are the only one with the right answers.
For any who are concerned, that's not Ted Ginn, Sr.
"I'm not trying to tell the coaches what to do; I (just think) every kid has a story," Ginn said. "That story needs to be told to the next person so they can know how to get the maximum out of that kid from the classroom to the field to life. We can't just drop our kids on people without communicating to the kid and the person you dropped them off to. That's not coaching but helping them along so the next person will know how to coach them through life. The bottom line to all this – it's about the kids."
In the end, Ginn believes, "You have to know your purpose. I'm trying to open up a school to try and control the whole outlook of the kid from the home standpoint to the educational standpoint to the field to the rest of his life. If I don't stay on Ted or on Troy…they don't like that, but I have to continue to tell them – one slip up and they are done. Because they are kids and don't think certain things mean much, but sometimes it is the smallest things that mean the most."
If every parent (let alone coaches) saw their purpose as clearly and believed as strongly as Ginn – it's all about the kids, maybe more could agree with the crooning of Louis Armstrong, "what a wonderful world."