After tragedy caused by human dysfunction, the resolve always is not to forget. The end of World War II brought global resolve not to forget Nazi crimes against humanity and to prevent future atrocities. Decades later, genocide continues.
Closer to home is the death of Yeardley Love, again in the media and in the minds of Baltimoreans during the recent trial of George Huguely. Love grew up in the lacrosse community and was beloved by many.
The family of George Huguely is also known by some in Baltimore. He has family in town and at the Delaware beaches frequented by Baltimoreans.
It has not been hard to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the victim’s family and in those of the family of the accused. As the attorney for the prosecution, Warner “Dave” Chapman, said after the verdict on a rainy Charlottesville night, “There are no winners in this case. There is nothing but loss everywhere.”
The Love family has suffered unspeakable loss because of Yeardley Love’s violent death. George Huguely, although alive, will likely not see life outside of prison until he approaches his parents’ current ages. Whether they will live to see that day is unknown. His grandmother, seen leaving the courthouse late that rainy night, likely will not.
For everyone the question remains, can something like this happen again? For it not to happen again soon requires some change in how we, as adults, respond.
We are raised not to interfere in others’ business. Intervention is not something most feel comfortable doing. Some experts feel it rarely works, but in the case of a young person, shouldn’t we at least try?
Why, during the trial or sentencing phase, did we not hear of times that adults in Huguely’s life had said “enough,” required a recovery program or used a misstep as an opportunity to offer him tools and opportunity for change? Why did we not hear of anyone trying to intervene in the trajectory of a star athlete turned convict? Adult efforts might not have guaranteed change, but it would have been good to hear what efforts had been made.
It was reported that Huguely’s teammates had thought about intervening, but nothing was mentioned about adults who had. Unless young adults have examples of how to do it, how do they learn? Could the teammates have changed a situation and a climate that had been allowed by adults for years?
When schools rely on the success of sports teams for fundraising, how easily can a coach kick a player off a team? Intense pressure is often placed on coaches and administrators not to make waves among the wealthy. With all eyes on sports, perhaps some coaches could do more.
Some are stricter than others about behavior off the field. Some give good behavior more than lip service by working hard with young athletes to ingrain respect for one another, for mothers, sisters and girlfriends. Some offer themselves as inspiring role models of moral courage. Some coaches, although demanding, are such examples themselves that the last thing a player wants to do is to disappoint the coach or his teammates.
One such coach was Joe Ehrmann, former Baltimore Colt who coached football at Gilman. Now through his book, Inside Out Coaching, and his Coach for America program, he works with coaches around the country to create teams that win in life as well as on the field.
Ehrmann says, "Courage can be divided into two types: physical and moral. Of the two, however, physical courage is the more recognized virtue in the world of sports. Coaches talk about physical courage, encourage it, and hold up examples to the team often in the context of fighting through injuries, rehabilitation, and pain. There is far too little emphasis, teaching, modeling, nurturing and developing of moral courage."
My wish for all of us concerned adults is that we demonstrate moral courage ourselves and act when much is at risk.