Friday, December 04, 2009

Helping every youth in need he meets is Ginn Sr.'s mission

Glenville coach’s best victories come off field

Bob Fortuna

December 4, 2009

Ted Ginn Sr. doing what he does a lot, giving advice and direction to a student. This day it happened to be in Ginn Academy, but he often does it outside of the school. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)

Glenville football coach Ted Ginn Sr. gets about five hours of sleep a night but even when he sleeps, one eye seemingly is open.

It's not endless hours of game film and visions of X's and O's that make him restless. Rather, off-the-field concerns with troubled youth, including frequent middle-of-the-night calls, and not just from his football players.

Like the 3 a.m. call Olivia Farr made on a spring Wednesday more than 10 years ago. Her granddaughter, Sune' Stamper, had run away from home.

"I felt my grandma was too strict so I got mad, packed a bag and left," said Stamper, a Glenville junior at the time and a member of the Ginn-coached girls track team.

Ginn knew where to go, driving to the house of one of Stamper's other relatives and simply said, "Get in the car." He wasn't mad and he didn't yell at Stamper on the ride back to her grandma's, but he told her smarter decisions were needed.

A two-hour conversation in grandma's living room among the three followed. Ginn then went home, only to return a few hours later to pick Stamper up for school.

"He was always looking out for me and the others," said Stamper, 26 and an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center.

Glenville football coach/mentor/adviser Ted Ginn Sr. watches over the morning assembly at Ginn Academy. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)

Stamper earned a bachelor's degree in education from Central State, where she ran track.

Ginn's focus never wavers, whether it's the mighty Tarblooders football program as the team prepares for its first-ever appearance in Saturday's state championship game against Hilliard Davidson; directing the growth of his Ginn Academy school for at-risk youth; or serving as deacon or singing in the men's choir at Historic Greater Friendship Baptist Church.

Helping his athletes is part of Ginn's mission -- he wants to save all the troubled children, an obsession that began while growing up in Louisiana with his grandmother Mull Burton.

Lonely childhood in Cleveland

Ginn was born in Louisiana. His parents moved to Cleveland when he was a toddler, but he soon returned to live with his grandmother after his mom and dad separated. At age 11, his mother, Lear Ginn, got custody and he moved back to Cleveland.

"My grandma died of a broken heart not even a year after I moved away because she never got over the fact I had to leave," Ginn said. "My mom died when I was 19 and I believe she, too, died of a broken heart because she never got over my grandmother's passing.

"I had two half-brothers but I was basically an only child so I was by myself after that. Loneliness is a horrible feeling, one I don't ever want any child to feel."

Ted and his wife, Jeanette, met in high school and have been together 35 years. They claim they can't remember the year they were married.

He never turns down a kid in need

Shaunte' (Berry) Jackson was lonely as a Glenville junior in the mid-1990s, living with her drug-addicted mom and alcoholic grandparents. Nobody was allowed at the house and she and her six siblings weren't permitted to visit friends. Jackson took out her anger by getting into fights.

Jackson was a track teammate and friend of Ginn's daughter, Tiffany, and often found refuge sneaking to the Ginn home. She was on the verge of being thrown out of the house because of continual fighting with her mother.

"Ginn talked to my mom and defended me," said Jackson, now 31 and married with two children. She is a teacher's assistant, assistant volleyball coach and head cheerleading adviser at Glenville while working toward a bachelor's degree in physical education at Cleveland State. "Ted got a hold of me and turned my focus to track, which helped turn me in the right direction."

Said Ginn, "Every kid has a story. If you don't listen to their story, you can never help them."

Ginn is a good listener and he relates well to both boys and girls. Besides daughter Tiffany, there's son Ted Jr., a former Glenville/Ohio State standout now playing wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.

The elder Ginn listened intently to Steven Hryb when he met him seven years ago while watching his older brother compete in a track meet for Kenston.

Hryb's hobby is photography and the conversation got deeper while showing Ginn some pictures he shot of Ginn's son from Ohio State games.

Ginn, however, sensed something was wrong. He thought Hryb lacked confidence. Despite the fact that Hryb competed in cross country, basketball and baseball, people were always telling him what he could and could not do, and he found it discouraging.

Two years later, Hryb bumped into Ginn outside a Bureau of Motor Vehicles office after just receiving his driver's license. They recognized each another and Ginn invited Hryb to his house in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, where they spent two hours on the back porch that afternoon.

" 'Uncle Ginn' told me nobody should put limitations on anyone," Hryb said. "He told me to decide what I want to do and go for it."

Hryb, now a junior sports-management major at Ohio University, will be interning at Rosenhaus Sports Management this summer.

Sherrae M. Hayes could always run fast, but when she met Ginn, he taught her how to run far.

Hayes was a standout sprinter at Wilbur Wright Middle School before competing for Glenville's track team as a freshman.

Ginn had her compete in the 3,200-meter run, a long distance event, during her first high school indoor meet. Hayes wondered what was going on but never questioned the decision.

"Ginn just told me to finish the race and I did," said Hayes, a 2004 Glenville graduate. "I finished every race I ran for that man and ended up being a pretty decent middle and long distance runner."

Hayes was valedictorian at Glenville and Tennessee State, where she got a bachelor's degree in speech communications. She will have her master's degree in Africana studies from New York University by the end of the month and is applying to Northwestern, Penn, Harvard and Yale graduate schools for a dual doctorate in African-American studies and communications.

Hayes' experiences as a runner come in handy when she becomes overwhelmed.

"I still can hear Ginn yelling, 'Finish, finish, finish,' " said Hayes, who wants to be a professor.

No price tag for helping others

Ted Ginn Sr. talks with Ginn Academy senior Devon Hall on Nov. 2. Ginn’s reach beyond the football field to the students and community is emblematic of “The Dream of Change” poster. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)

Contrary to what some believe, money has never been important to Ginn and it irritates Demetrius Davis when outsiders look at his friend/mentor as a money machine.

"Everyone wants to read Ted's bank account and not pay attention to the man and his vision," said Davis, a former Tarblooders safety/tailback and now a special-education teacher at Collinwood. "Heck, he coached the first five years without getting a paycheck.

"He told me 25 years ago he was going to have his own school someday. If that's not vision, what is?"

Even people who've known Ginn for a long time learn something new every day.

Theo Washington and Ginn have been friends for 38 years and last spring were in a clothing store in Mayfield Heights. They noticed a young man from Euclid trying on a suit for his prom, only his mom couldn't afford it.

Ginn told him to get the suit and not worry about it, the bill was covered.

"When the kid asked how he could thank him, Ted told him to send him an invitation to his high school graduation," said Washington. "The kid went one better. He also sent Ted a picture from his prom."

Ginn's goal is to save all the children but he knows he's not perfect. He has a hard time saying no and feels he gives people too many second, third and fourth chances.

He takes setbacks personally and has had more than his share recently involving former players.

Lamontios Bentley was 24 when he was run over and killed in September during a drug deal. In August, Ryan Driggins, 20, was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison for murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and gun charges.

And budding talent Anthony Gordon was 16 when he was shot and killed in 2006.

"Ted tells all the kids this is probably the last place they're going to be where they can get a chance over and over again," said Ginn's longtime friend and volunteer coach Tony Fox. "He tells them when they get out in the world, their first mistake could be their last."

Ginn Academy senior Devon Hall said he was going down a path similar to Driggins and made a terrible mistake two years ago before Ginn stepped in.

Hall was looking at an eight-year prison sentence for gun possession during a robbery. Hall's dad, Victor Freeman, played for Ginn and called his former coach.

"Mr. Ginn wrote a letter on my behalf to the judge," Hall said. "The judge then gave the letter to the magistrate and I was given six years probation."

Hall, who entered Ginn Academy as a sophomore, is getting good grades, works at a neighborhood restaurant and plans to study criminal justice/political science at Clark Atlanta University with aspirations of being a lawyer.

"We tell Ted he can't save everybody but he feels it's his responsibility," said Glenville graduate and offensive coordinator Tony Overton. "I told him one time to take a break, just relax.

"He said the children will be neglected if he relaxes."

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