It is an interesting time to be an American, to say the least. For many reasons and many issues, many of us are experiencing things—not just events, but ideas, feelings—that we never have before. We are engaging in ways that we never have. Many are actually listening today as opposed to hearing, and as a result, public opinion has begun to shift, and apathy has become less of the default.
The sporting world gave us a powerful reminder of this when the major leagues all around the country engaged in strikes led by the players that resulted in games being postponed, including in postseason play for the NBA and the NHL. Many teams used the opportunity to have a dialogue and further educate themselves about the climate we’re living in and how to address it.
The first step is to listen, especially for those who might not have been paying as much attention before. A number of players and coaches throughout the NFL acknowledged this yesterday in their comments, including members of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization who spoke to the media.
Ben Roethlisberger, for example, was asked about what he felt it was important to do in these times. “I think we need to educate ourselves”, he said. “Specifically I would like to educate myself, and that’s why I say I’m listening. And I think listening is such an important thing to do, because obviously I look differently than a lot of my teammates and a lot of my friends, and so, how can I better educate myself and listen and learn, because we all need to do and be better”.
We can’t know what others are going through without seeing them ourselves unless we engage with them, and for many, this is a conversation that has begun to happen in earnest over the past several months. But of course, listening is only the first step.
Later in the day, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was asked about if he spoke to the team about recent events. “I really haven’t. I’d like to come in early, get a work day, and kinda stick to my routine from a work standpoint”, he admitted. “I guess I understand a little bit about what’s going on, but I really haven’t had time to think about it, and I don’t mean that in an insensitivity way, but if any of the players would like to talk, I would love to listen. I would love to keep growing and learning more myself”.
I think it’s important for any coach right now to have a sort of open-door policy, to engage with his players and listen to what they might have to say about what they’re thinking and feeling. This is good advice for any leader of men in any position at any time, but especially now.