Sunday, April 20, 2008

There's a reason why people love USC's Pete Carroll

The LA Times published an extraordinary article on USC's head football coach, Pete Carroll. From the article:

Few know that about twice a month Carroll leaves his comfy digs at USC, hops in the back of a beaten Camry driven by a former gang member and heads to South L.A. neighborhoods where the snap of gunfire and the anguish of death occur with the steady regularity of a metronome.

These are not recruiting visits. He's trying to save lives.

Most often, he arrives near midnight and walks shadowy streets with that familiar, electric strut, surrounded by little boys, grandparents, crack heads and gang toughs. He empathizes, listens, encourages, laughs. He talks about jobs and kids and marriage, about perspective and courage, about how difficult it must be to be caught in the madness of the streets.

He realizes that some might think he's a fool, that some might say he should pay no mind to gang members. Naysayers do not stop him.

"I don't go to judge . . . just to show that someone cares," he said. "Just go to give people here a little hope. . . . Get folks to step back and think. Hopefully, get them to change."

Five years ago, moved by news of murders near USC's campus, Carroll formed a foundation called A Better LA, dedicated to ending inner-city violence. He hoped to use the self-improvement thinking he's long leaned on in coaching to help people in poor and dangerous neighborhoods.

He struggled to gain traction. He didn't have much in the way of relationships with the gang members he hoped to influence. Then Carroll met Bo Taylor, a former gang member who long ago had dedicated his life to turning street toughs to the straight and narrow. Carroll and Taylor grew close. To be truly effective, Taylor told the coach, Carroll would need to learn more about the dreams and fears of people living in forgotten neighborhoods. The only way to do that would be to become a regular at the hot spots...

The whole article is well worth a read.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

And there's a reason why I read your blog. Thank you for sharing this article. It helps me not to judge. It helps me to know that someone cares. Could I walk in places that scare me and simply talk with people like Pete is doing? Hmmmm.

Toby Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RFK Action Front said...

Thanks for your comment!

Recently, I worked on a construction job with several former gang members. Great guys, fascinating guys, in and of prison, the underground economy, and addiction to drugs. The guys I was working with had discovered narcotics anonymous and found it made an enormous difference in their lives. Working with these guys and reading this article on Pete Carroll helped me to realize that there are social technologies (ideas, philosophies, rules, approaches, habits), if you will, that make an enormous difference for people. I usually focus only on the economic argument -- but I now think the problem is also bigger than that. I think Pete Carroll understands, embodies, and teaches some of those attitudes and philosophies that connect people with their best selves.

Thanks again for your comment.