Keith Mills Article on Ehrmann

“The Big Lie” that has plagued generations of men  and established a culturally accepted definition of what Joe Ehrmann  calls “false masculinity”. Simply stated, it means men define their  worth by the following three components: athletic achievement, sexual  conquest and economic success. False masculinity has its roots in the  father and son dysfunction – in which sons seek the love and approval of their fathers through some measure of performance – be it athletic or  otherwise.

“Masculinity, first and foremost ought to be defined in terms of  relationships,” Ehrmann said. ” It ought to be taught in terms of the  capacity to love and to be loved. Success in life cant be measured by  what you’ve acquired or achieved or what you own.”
Joe’s second criterium for building better men and establishing “authentic masculinity” is service. Men ought to be engaged in some kind of cause, some selfless, driving purpose, bigger and more meaningful than themselves
He teaches boys how to become men; and not through the traditional sense of accomplishment found in winning, but through a sense of friendship,  teamwork and love.
Ehrmann’s Lessons Ring Loud, Clear And Essential
By Keith Mills
Thank you, Joe Ehrmann.
For this:
“I often say the most competitive sport in America is parenting — sitting in the stands competing with each other for a better seat in the  bleachers of life based on one child’s performance. These parents have  forgotten the pure, unadulterated pleasure of their own play as children — if they ever felt it.”

And for this:
“Every team has a common purpose, performance  goals, and objectives. In addition, every team has a mutually  accountable work ethic and is built on the trust, respect, and integrity of every team member. It is the perfect venue to help boys and girls  become men and women. Why do I coach? I coach to build my players’  capacity and competency to build and maintain relationships. Why do I  coach? I coach to teach my players how to commit to their hearts, minds, bodies and spirits to the cause of the team.”
And for this:
“I began the InSideOut coaching process by recalling and trying to  understand the experiences, feelings, attitudes and behaviors of coaches and adults who impacted my life. Some experiences were easy to recall,  others more difficult, and some extremely painful. I knew that to change the way I was coaching, I had to make some sense of the way I had been  coached.”
Ehrmann is certainly no stranger to anyone who has  coached or is connected to high school sports in the Baltimore area, or  at least, he shouldn’t be. He’s just about to begin his 15th year as the defensive coordinator under head coach Biff Poggi at Gilman, one of the premier football programs in the country.
Parade Magazine calls Ehrmann “The Most Important Coach in America.”
Of course that is subjective, though there’s no disputing the enormous  impact he has had on his players at Gilman, parents, administrators,  teachers and fellow coaches around the country.
Now he has  written a book, “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives.”  It’s part memoir, part blueprint and part challenge for any coach who  puts wins and losses ahead of the welfare and emotional and physical  development of his or her players.
It’s a must-read for any coach at any level, and any parent whose boy or girl is just now picking up a baseball bat or lacrosse stick, or any young man or woman who is  playing basketball or soccer in high school and college.
He wrote it with his wife, Paula, and Gregory Jordan. It’s clearly Ehrmann’s coaching philosophy, one cultivated through a  lifetime of playing football, basketball and baseball as a boy in  upstate New York and then reaching the highest level of professional  football as a young man here in Baltimore.

“The cornerstone of my purpose statement is ‘to help boys become  men,’ ” he wrote.  “This became the focus of my coaching. I had been  waylaid on my quest to become a man by false cultural messages and poor  role models of manhood. I wanted to coach players in their transition  from boyhood to manhood and redefine manhood.”
Ehrmann grew up in Buffalo and writes openly about a father that abused him physically and verbally. Ehrmann was mean and nasty on the Riverside High football  field and was soon a heavily recruited defensive tackle. He went to  Syracuse, where he played football for Ben Schwartzwalder and lacrosse for Roy Simmons Jr. Both are Hall of Famers and both had a major impact on a young Ehrmann, but in different ways.
At Syracuse, Ehrmann was an All-American in football and the Baltimore  Colts made him the 10th overall pick during the 1973 NFL draft. He  joined John Dutton, Mike Barnes and Fred Cook on the famed Sack Pack and helped the Colts win three-straight division championships.
Despite moving on to the Lions and ultimately the USFL, Ehrmann never really  left Baltimore. He raised his four children with Paula, whom he met  after one of the most famous football games in Colts history: the last  game of the 1975 regular season, a 34-21 win against the New England  Patriots, which clinched the team’s first postseason berth since it won  Super Bowl V in 1971.
Back then Ehrmann was the self-admitted  life of the party, who spent almost as much time in Fells Point during  the 1970s as he did in opposing backfields. And then he got married;  lost his brother; became a father to Alison, Esther, Barney and Joey; graduated from seminary school; became a minister and helped opened the first Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.
He also met Biff Poggi.
Ehrmann and Poggi share the same vision, a mantra they call “Building Men For  Others.” It is a philosophy based not so much on the final score, but on relationships, love, respect, masculinity and service to others, things that are rarely discussed at all in high school, much less on the  football field.
Football, obviously, is what brings the players  and coaches together, but far more than football is taught at a school  that has had as much success the last 15 years as any team in the state.
That philosophy also became the theme of the wildly successful  book Jeffrey Marx wrote in 2004 called “Season of Life,” a New York  Times best seller about the Gilman football team.
Joining Poggi and Ehrmann on the Gilman coaching staff that year were Stan White, Ehrmann’s teammate with the Colts, whose son Stan Jr. was the area’s 2002 Defensive Player of the Year; Keith Kormanik; Johnny Foreman; Tim Holley; and Sherm Bristow.
Most of the staff is still together, including Poggi and Ehrmann, the former college all-star and NFL Pro Bowler who has taken his coaching message  to a national level.
In addition to InSideOut Coaching, Ehrmann  and Paula are co-founders of Coach For America, which looks to inspire  change through sports and coaching.
“The credo of American  coaching seems to be that competition exists to prove superiority, to  project a greater mastery of strength, and to celebrate dominance,  power, and control over others,” Ehrmann wrote. “Too many coaches see  competition as a way to compensate for their own insecurities and  inadequacies.”
Ehrmann puts coaches in two categories: the  transactional coach and the transformational coach. He’s not shy in  sharing which he prefers and which he does not.
Simmons, according to Ehrmann, was the perfect transformational coach.  Schwartzwalder was not.
“The transformational coach realizes the power of the coaching platform to  inspire, motivate, and produce positive change in his or her followers,” Ehrmann wrote. “Transactional coaches lead through negotiation,  inducement, manipulation, and threats to achieve a desired productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.
“I bought wholeheartedly into  three sports myths: acceptance, status and performance-based identity.  It wasn’t until I met Coach Simmons that I realized that a coach has a  unique platform from which to beat back those myths and build  self-esteem, character, and virtue in young athletes.
“From Ben  Schwartzwalder I learned the difference between transactional and  transformational coaching. I learned that when narcissism replaces  other-centered coaching, teams can fracture into separate cliques. I  also learned the consequences of remaining silent before injustices.  From Coach Simmons I learned to look from the ground to the sky. I  learned to appreciate the beauty, aesthetics, and spirituality of  sports. I coach outside the box the way my mentor did with dignity,  integrity, and respect. …
“I started to ask men and women I met this question: When you were younger, what person made the biggest  difference in your life? The answer as invariably someone who mentored,  taught, advised, affirmed, or inspired. That person was often a coach.  Then I asked some probing questions. Who do you aspire to be as a coach? On what do you base your coaching philosophy?”
Roy Simmons Jr.  inherited the Syracuse lacrosse program from his dad, Roy Sr., in 1971  and coached one of the great dynasties in all of college sports, leading the Orangemen to five of their 11 NCAA championships. He remains a  coaching icon in the eyes of Ehrmann, though he is not alone.
“From Ed Abramoski (the former trainer of the Buffalo Bills),” Ehrmann wrote, “I learned the power of affirmation and resilience a coach can provide  to his players. I coach the way I do to affirm and help players discover and identify unique gifts and talents that often go unnoticed and  underdeveloped. I coach with affirmation to build up my players’  positive self-concepts and resiliency.
“From Charlie Dingboom, my high school coach, I learned the lessons of team responsibility, rules, and respect for the game and my teammates. I coach the way I do with  rules, boundaries, and appropriate discipline when needed.”
He writes with the same passion he speaks.
Ehrmann is on the short list of the greatest public speakers I’ve ever heard,  combining an uncanny arsenal of experience both as a player and coach  with true passion and compassion for his players. Listen to Ehrmann for  five minutes and it’s easy to see why he truly says he loves his players and why he won’t consider himself a success until 20 years after they  graduate.
InSideOut coaching is an extension of the many seminars and speeches he’s given throughout the country. He deals with such  sensitive issues as masculinity and sensitivity in and out of the locker room, date rape and how young men can stop it, and how InSideOut  coaching has very little to do with wins and losses and a lot to do with love and relationships.
“InSideOut coaching is not just a  program; it is a process,” Ehrmann wrote. “For me it culminated in this  book. The relationships, the learning, the teaching and the coaching  have all been one long, arduous, and ultimately liberating ceremony. The beauty of transformational coaching is that the transformation works  both ways — it transforms us as coaches, too. Our players teach and  challenge us. And if we listen, they tell us how to love them.”
Thank you, Joe Ehrmann, for a book that is a must-read, and a message that has to be heard.