SAN ANTONIO — *At the bottom of this story is a YouTube video with the entire Zoom conversation between Evan Closky, Jeff Traylor, Eric Morris and Jerheme Urban. No on-air story nor written story can properly explain the depth and detail of this nuanced and important topic. If you would like to watch the unedited conversation on how these coaches are proactively handling these discussions with their programs, we highly encourage heading to that video.*
Getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversation is not easy, but it is necessary for progress when discussing important topics, especially the one surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement in America.
"There's one thing that that I told (my team), you know, I can't relate," UIW head football coach Eric Morris said. "I really don't understand, but I do care and I really, truly want to help right now."
The city of San Antonio has three collegiate football programs. Morris leads UIW, while Jeff Traylor represents UTSA and Jerheme Urban helps guide the Trinity Tigers.
As conversations develop within families, these football coaches must guide a group of 18 to 22-year-old's on a dense topic with a lot of differing backgrounds within the locker room.
"I spoke for 15 minutes and my kids spoke for another two hours and 15 or 30 minutes," Traylor says as he describes a recent team meeting. "Everyone of them -- white, black and brown -- were united in what they wanted to do with this."
Urban, who has had similar conversations with his team, said, "My wife loves chocolate chip cookies, but that's not the love we're talking about. Based on my understanding of love it will be based on a sacrificial standpoint. We're going to listen to our teammates and part of that sacrifice, to show that love, is to listen if it's uncomfortable. Also, go out and show support."
Developing proper perspective is hard. Beyond getting into the minutiae of emotional intelligence, certain individuals are able to empathize more than others. On top of that, humans are hardwired to believe and understand what they know. Where you grew up, who you hung out with, parental guidance and socioeconomic status all play a part in the bigger picture.
Coaches are dealt a tough hand to connect with everyone, but do the best they can.
"We're all a product of our experiences," Traylor said. "So the only way we are going to learn about each other is to really have real conversations with each other and that will help each of us understand where we're coming from."
Urban added, "If your experience doesn't align with something else, (you) don't want to get defensive. When the defensiveness comes up and wells up inside of you, for whatever reason, try to do some self-examination and wonder 'why?'"
These are unquestionably tumultuous times right now, but there is a glowing optimism that this younger generation is ready to transform America towards better days in the future.
"It's been fun to see them grow," Morris said. "We say in our program all the time, if you don't grow you gotta go. We're trying to grow with this and I think our kids realize they're not going to be able to fix this problem completely right now; but just educate ourselves on it, understand it and move it in the right direction is something we're striving hard to do right now as a unit."
Traylor said, "If we do this correctly, this can be a watershed moment in our history where we look back (and say) 'that was the moment where we cleaned up some stuff. We made America better.'"
During this hour-long Zoom conversation with all three coaches, Morris suggested an idea to bring all these programs together (after coronavirus concerns are over) and help each other, along with the community, become a more welcoming place for positive change.
"I think you got a lot of people who are ready to band together, make relationships and develop change in a lot of ways," Urban said. "To me that gets exciting. I know I'm on the screen right now with a couple of guys who are very committed to doing the right thing."
Traylor said, "I think it would be another great example of coaches, coming together, and making our platform larger. I think it would be great to show a united front and, once again, show how coaches can always put aside that other stuff for a bigger cause. That's why I'm proud to be a coach and I would be glad to help in any way I can."