Joe Ehrmann, an elite athlete, educator, coach and motivational speaker, will challenge the myths and stereotypes that get played out in the sports arena during a presentation on Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m. in Myers Convocation Center on the AU campus. Ehrmann will address some of the crucial questions about masculinity and violence that have been prompted by recent cases involving high-profile male sports figures. The event is free and open to the public.
Ehrmann, a former National Football League defensive lineman, will also be the keynote speaker at the one-day Sports and Violence Conference on Saturday, March 19. The events are sponsored by the Ashland Center for Nonviolence on the AU campus as well as the Ashland County Community Foundation Women’s Fund and the AU Gridiron Club.
AU head football coach Lee Owens credits Ehrmann for helping him become much more aware of why he coaches and how he ought to measure success as a coach. “Joe Ehrmann encourages a ‘transformational’ coaching style with a competency to build relationships with athletes in the middle of social chaos,” notes Owens. “Joe Ehrmann reflects on what really matters in life and in the legacy of an athlete or coach.”
Dr. Craig Hovey, executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, highlighted the connection between sports and violence. “A lot of people are noticing that there is a crisis involving models of masculinity that are damaging, especially to women,” Hovey said. “We recognize the challenges these realities raise. There is the need to talk openly about violence against women, to address destructive models and images of masculinity that are often associated with it, to empower women to seek help, to embolden them to understand how power differentials work, and to provide men with better alternatives for what it means to ‘be a man’ apart from conquest and domination.”
According to Ehrmann, who was named the Baltimore Colts “Man of the Year” and was the NFL’s first Ed Block Courage Award winner, domestic violence "isn’t an NFL problem; it’s an American problem and certainly a sports problem.”
Dr. Mark Hamilton, associate professor of philosophy at AU, said he was introduced to Joe Ehrmann over a decade ago through the New York Times bestselling book “Season of Life,” which follows a season of Ehrmann coaching a high school football team in the inner city of Baltimore. Ehrmann's primary goal as a coach was to dispel the false images of masculinity in the minds of his players and replace it with teaching the players to love one another and to find a cause in life greater than themselves. “I have been using this book every year since then in my Sports Ethics class,” said Hamilton. “I have seen it remarkably influence how students understand what good sport should look like."
Ehrmann was an All-American football player at Syracuse University, was selected to the Syracuse All-Century Football Team, and went on to play professional football for 13 years. Parade Magazine featured him on its cover, naming him “The Most Important Coach in America” because of his work to transform the culture of sports. In addition, he was selected as one of the “Most Influential Sport Educators in America” by the Institute for International Sport.
Ehrmann is co-founder of Baltimore’s Ronald McDonald House and was chosen by the Baltimore Business Journal as the “Renaissance Person of the Decade” for his dedication and commitment to Baltimore’s betterment. He co-founded The Door, a community-based organization that addresses issues of poverty, systemic racism, and social justice.
Other honors include being the National Fatherhood Initiative’s “Man of the Year” for his work in improving the well-being of children by helping fathers become more involved, responsible and committed to their children. He was awarded the Frederick Douglas National Man of the Year for empowering youth to prevent rape and other forms of male violence.
His revolutionary concepts of transformational leadership, coaching, team-building and mentoring are the subject of his newly released book: “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives.” Copies of the book, along with “Season of Life,” will be available for purchase at the event, which will be followed by a book signing.