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Ehrmann Slated for January 12 Talk
November 21, 2005

A man Parade Magazine coverParade Magazine called the most important coach in America will speak at Calvin College in January 2006.

Joe Ehrmann is a former football star turned pastor and coach.

And he has some novel ideas about what it means to be an athlete and what it means to coach athletes.

Area coaches, athletes, school administrators, community leaders, pastors and any others interested in sports, religion and masculinity will have a chance to hear Ehrmann's philosophies of life and sports on January 12, 2006 at 7 pm in the Fine Arts Center at Calvin when he speaks on "Coaching from the Inside Out." Tickets are $5 and on sale November 28 at the Calvin Box Office.

That evening those in attendance will hear from a 13-year veteran of the National Football League and a former All-American at Syracuse University. But what they hear may not be what they would have expected from a former defensive lineman.

Consider a litany Ehrmann often rehearses with his Gilman football team in Baltimore.

"What is our job as coaches?" he shouts.

"To love us!" the Gillman boys shout back in unison.

"What is your job?" Ehrmann asks.

"To love each other!" comes the response.

As author Jeffrey Marx asked in his August 29, 2004 article in Parade Magazine: This is football?

It is for Ehrmann. It's also a life lesson.

Joe EhrmannEhrmann (left) believes that masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships and taught in terms of the capacity to love and be loved. He believes too that there are three lies that make up what he calls false masculinity. Those lies are athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success.

"The problem is that is sets men up for tremendous failures in our lives," he told Parade. "Because it gives us this concept that what we need to do as men is compare what we have and compete with others for what they have. We compare, we compete. That's all we ever do. It leaves most men feeling isolated and destroyed. And it destroys any concept of community."

Calvin College's Aaron Winkle is coordinator for Christian formation at the college and the person responsible for bringing Ehrmann, who has an organization called Building Men and Women for Others, to campus.

He says he likes what Ehrmann stands for. And he notes that people who think Ehrmann's philosophies sound good in principal but not in practice may be surprised by his results.

"The book about Joe (Season of Life) blew me away," says Winkle. "It's an amazing story, an in-depth look at what the coaches at Gilman are trying to do. When I read it I knew it was something we could benefit from at Calvin. But I also want to see our area high schools and other area colleges benefit from this different way of looking at sports."

Winkle says Ehrmann has credibility on two fronts: first as a former Division I and NFL athlete and second as part of the coaching staff at a nationally ranked high school team.

"Gilman wins," Winkle says simply. "They have a no-cut, everybody plays policy. They talk about their job as coaches and players being to love each other. It all sounds too good to be true, yet they make it work. Their kids graduate and go to D1 schools like Duke and Notre Dame. They have success on the field. It's an amazing story."

You'd be hard-pressed to hear about wins and losses from Ehrmann though. As Marx, author of Season of Life, says: "Unless pressed for specifics, Ehrmann does not even mention that Gillman finished three of the last six seasons undefeated and No. 1 in Baltimore. In 2002, the Greyhounds ranked No. 1 in Maryland and climbed to No. 14 in the national rankings."

Indeed, this season Gilman finished the regular season at 9-0 and ranked 19th in the USA Today national prep rankings.

That's the beauty of Ehrmann's approach says Winkle.

"There's a great section in the book where one of the parents asks Joe what kind of success he expects Gillman to have. He tells the mom that he has no idea. Won't know for 20 years, he says. That said it all for me. It's a totally different way to look at high school and college sports. And a totally different way to think about coaching."