Coaches offer empathy, understanding to players

  • Glenbard South varsity football coach Ryan Crissey works with his players.

    Glenbard South varsity football coach Ryan Crissey works with his players. Daily Herald File Photo

  • West Aurora boys basketball coach Brian Johnson talks to his players during a game against Oswego in 2019.

    West Aurora boys basketball coach Brian Johnson talks to his players during a game against Oswego in 2019. Sean King for the Daily Herald

Updated 6/9/2020 3:15 PM

Ryan Crissey knew he couldn't let the civil unrest of the past two weeks pass.

So the Glenbard South football coach went on Instagram and Twitter with this message for his players: "Just know I love u all! I am here to support u and will always have an open door. I am here to listen. I have a lot to learn because there are so many things I don't understand. I must continue to push all to educate themselves to gain perspective of things they don't understand."


Crissey's post went out with photos of his Raiders, black and white, standing together, as well as an illustration of two hands, one white and one black, clasped together in front of an American flag background.

Coaches around the suburbs have reached out to their players just to check in, ask how they're feeling about current events and let them talk things out.

West Aurora boys basketball coach Brian Johnson reacted similarly to Crissey.

"I needed them to know that I care for each and every one of them and I'm upset about what's been going on," Johnson said. "The situation over George Floyd and the numerous other situations that have gone on. And I wanted them to know that I stand with them and I know that the majority of our guys -- actually, all of them -- are very angry. But they're young, so they're trying to figure out what their voice is."

West Aurora's players were upset mainly about the looting in Aurora.

"I know that a lot of our players have strong love for Aurora and the community and a lot of them talked about how they are upset about what's going on with the looting and the rioting," Johnson said. "They want their voices to be heard in a peaceful manner."

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Waubonsie Valley girls basketball coach Brett Love found his players in support of the protests.

"A couple of them definitely think that it's something that's needed and they think that's important because of how diverse we are as a team," said Love, who found his players mostly even-keeled about the events. "It's something that they value."

Barrington athletic director Mike Obsuszt said he planned to discuss the situation with his coaches during a Zoom meeting in which they also discussed the IHSA's summer contact proposal.

"At that time we plan to address a number of items, one of them being the state of our society with all of the protests taking place," Obsuszt wrote in an email. "It's difficult to gauge staff and students when we don't have personal contact with them. Our hope is to be able to reach out to them regarding this at the same time we inform them of what our summer contact plans are going to be for their teams."

Crissey said he spent about six hours on the phone one day last week talking with current and former players as well as some parents about the situation. Among the former players he contacted were Elven Walker IV, a Coe College assistant coach, and Kyle Avaloy, now coaching at Dubuque.


"They said, 'Coach, it wasn't always the easiest thing being one of the only black males in a predominantly white school,' " Crissey said, "but both of them said that football and the administration always had open arms for all kids at Glenbard South. And that's what my wish is for these kids."

All of the coaches see empathy as important. But it's also important to help the student-athletes learn from this summer's events so that they can apply these lessons going forward.

"I just expressed to them that they are the future," Love said. "We protested before my time and during my time and it all generally went the same way as far as protests. It's up to them to kind of figure out a way to eliminate the violent protests and kind of figure out a way to just do the peaceful protests. It's something that they may have to face down the line if things continue to repeat itself."

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