Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Ted Ginn Sr. and Chuck Kyle heading into Greater Cleveland Sports Hall together is a shared legacy

Ted Ginn Sr., pictured at a 2011 Glenville football game, won't give up or give in. He'll return to the sidelines this summer, and will be inducted with St. Ignatius' Chuck Kyle into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in September.
Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer

By Tim Warsinskey, The Plain Dealer

July 1, 2013

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Winning is not a legacy in high school sports. I've known coaches who've won and were disliked or disrespected by their athletes, and with good reason.

Chuck Kyle wins. Ted Ginn Sr. wins. They have between them 17 state championships in football and track, and more than 450 football victories.

Their paths have different starting points, but the finished products have so much in common beyond winning. Ginn's and Kyle's legacies are the young men they lead, the ones who love and respect their coach and carry his imprint into our community for years to come. It is entirely appropriate Kyle and Ginn will be inducted simultaneously into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in September. The Hall made the announcement last week.

Kyle of St. Ignatius starts his day teaching the values of Chaucer and Shakespeare at the elite, all-boys Catholic school. If a kid can cut it there academically, it stands to reason he'll bring a good work ethic to practice. Half the battle already has been won.

St. Ignatius, of course, attracts some of Northeast Ohio's most promising student-athletes. Once they arrive at West 30th and Lorain, they benefit from outstanding coaches, and many have family support for individualized private training that polishes their talent.

That formula has produced 11 state football titles and one in track track for Kyle.

Ginn, of course, has a different situation at Glenville. He does draw elite student-athletes from across Cleveland to play at East 113th and St. Clair. During the day, many attend Ginn Academy, the all-boys school he founded, where discipline and academic standards are higher than other Cleveland schools. Once again, those who succeed there typically have the right makeup for athletics at Glenville.

The similarities with St. Ignatius end there. Glenville student-athletes have an entirely different set of circumstances, of course. Many come from single-parent homes with few financial resources, and live in sometimes dangerous neighborhoods. Ginn speaks so often of “saving kids' lives'' that it's easy to become numb to the term, but it's a constant reality for the children he mentors.

Ginn has been part of five state track titles, but not winning a football championship is viewed by close-minded fans as some kind of failure. It's a meaningless statistic. The failures that eat at Ginn are the kids he didn't reach, or didn't listen, and wind up in jail or worse.

“He’s changed so many lives that you can’t put a number on it,'' San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner told The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot before playing in this year's Super Bowl. Whitner counted himself among the saved.

What endures about Kyle and Ginn is they refuse to give up or give in. Each is in a position to retire, and scoffs at the notion. Despite serious health problems and missing the 2012 football season, Ginn will be back on the sideline this fall, and he has taken over once again as head track coach after several years in the background. Kyle thinks summer vacation is for summer school and minicamps, and he's headed for his 31st football season and 41st track season.

Inducting Kyle and Ginn into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame continues a long narrative of recognition the two receive, recognition that begins with leading high-profile football teams in a football town. If they were volleyball coaches, their impact would be just as great, but we wouldn't be having this conversation.

In a way, they represent hundreds who might never receive the same public appreciation, but also are doing the real work of educators that isn't measured by victories, trophies or state tests. When I think of Ginn, I also think of St. Vincent-St. Mary track coach Dan Lancianese and Kent Roosevelt football coach John Nemec. When I think of Kyle, I am reminded of Maple Heights volleyball coach Betsy Smerglia and Glenville girls basketball coach Renee Wright. They walk the same walk and endure the same headaches and heartaches as Kyle and Ginn.

Their task is to mold men and women, and the fact they continue to do so with such vigor, purpose and character, we're all better for it. That is their shared legacy.

Popular Posts