Jerry Bruckheimer’s Remember the Titans is based on the true story of T.C.
Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The film chronicles the Virginia School Board’s seemingly insurmountable task of integration in 1971, and the consequential response of the community. The state’s most successful high school football program was forced to integrate with a black school. The School Board unwittingly initiated the conflict that was necessary for adaptive change. The Coaches are there to help orchestrate and manage the conflict as well as model appropriate behavior for the football players.
Characters within the movie serve as archetypal of the community at large and in doing such, represent various dysfunctions that organizations and even society as a whole operates with everyday.It can, at times, be difficult to summarize what sports can mean to a community. I think of Boston and what their sports teams mean to their community. When talking with family and friends there, it is obvious that sports fulfill a need for the community. They are united in victory, and sadly, brought together by the agony of defeat. This is evidenced not only in casual conversation, but also in the talk radio shows focused on the sports teams in Boston that saturate the airwaves.For many small towns, a successful high school football program can play that same role.
The T.C. Williams football team had traditionally served as the definition for success in Arlington Virginia. Winning several state championships and having an All-American football star, the community not only cheered for this team, but they cared about it. It served as the rallying point, as Sheryl Yoast who is this? Can you talk about her without any prior introduction, or other citation? Maybe just a quick reminder of who she is.
put it, “In Virginia, High School football is a way of life, it’s bigger than Christmas day.” It was even more then that though. Football was the force that initially divided and later united the entire community.It is no secret that in 1971 the number one objective of the majority of the white officials, was probably not successful integration. So, what better stage could there be for this to fail? The School Board intentionally created a situation that they perceived as doomed for failure by replacing Coach Yoast, a white coach and Virginia Football Hall of Fame nominee, on the state’s most successful team, with Coach Boone, a black coach who was new to the community. Regardless of race, it is to be expected that neither coach would be happy about this decision. However, in Arlington Virginia, in 1971 it was all about race.
On the night when Boone was told he was going to be head coach of T.C. Williams High School, he sat on his back porch with the Dr.
Daye, a black representative from the school board, and articulated that he had lost a job that he had rightfully earned, just as Yoast had at T.C. Williams High School.
After being very clear with Dr. Daye that he wouldn’t accept the job, Boone’s wife called his attention to the front yard where the black community had gathered to let him know that they were supporting him.The black community felt like they finally had a voice. But it was more than a voice; it was a formal authority, a black head coach, the first in the state. Seeing the need expressed by the community for a formal authority, he reluctantly accepted the job. However, he immediately went to Coach Yoasts’ house to ask him to stay on the staff. Coach Yoast, overwhelmed with pride and not wanting to lose his formal authority, declined Boone’s invitation, igniting an outcry in the white community.Coach Yoast called a white team meeting where he announced his intention to take a year off and move on to a different high school next year to be a head coach again.
The parents were outraged at the notion of their children playing for a black coach. The players, one by one, stood up and decided they would sit out the season if they weren’t playing for Yoast. Coach Yoast was immediately faced with the impact of his decision to leave, the breakup of an entire team, and the students losing out on everything they had previously worked so hard for.
In leadership, we are not always lucky enough to see the immediate repercussions of our actions. Coach Yoast was fortunate enough to see the consequences of his decision and, with a bold leadership move, decided to stay on as an assistant coach for the good of the kids. Heifetz and Linsky say that in leadership, “the goals extend beyond material gain or personal advancement.
” (pg. 3) No longer swollen by pride, Yoast clearly puts himself and his ego in the back seat for the greater good of the students needs.The perception often times is that if you are not moving forward you are being left behind. Leadership often “means convincing (someone) to take a leap of faith in themselves and in life.” (Heiftiz ; Linsky, pg. 26) By risking his pride and ego now for possible benefits later required a huge leap of faith for Yoast.
It goes right to the heart of the loss associated with leadership that Heiftz ; Linsky write about. The idea that giving up something now that seams terribly important, ultimately benefits you later is crucial in helping to facilitate adaptive change. Yoast saw the situation for what it was and effectively accepted the challenge to be a leader.