About a year ago my 13-year-old grandson (Tyler) was selling magazine subscriptions for a fundraiser for one of his classes at school. I scanned the list with Mary Kay (my wife) and we picked out a few Christmas presents and then my eyes found Sports Illustrated.
I love sports. I have ever since I can remember. I played, coached, cheered, jeered, laughed, cried and own the morning editions of the Chicago Tribune for each day after Michael Jordan and the Bulls won each of their six NBA championships. The sports pages were going to be mounted and put in my man cave—or they might just stay in the box in the attic and be an heirloom for my grandkids someday.
Sports Illustrated was my gift to me. I try and devour every issue—especially those that have a cover story that grabs me.
On Wednesday night the new Sports Illustrated arrived and the cover caught my eye, “A Coach’s Courage—In This Ohio High School Corridor Frank Hall Encountered a Killer. Three Kids Already Lay Dying of Gunshot Wounds. Many More Would Have Been Lost If Not For …”
When I saw the cover of the magazine I knew it had to be about Chardon, Ohio. What other OhioHigh School could they be talking about? I didn’t know Frank Hall, the Chardon football coach featured in the article. He is my daughter’s age and he didn’t go to Chardon High.
My mind wandered back to an event over a year ago. It must have been the evening of February 12, 2012. In the background I heard a TV report of a killing at ChardonHigh School. What? That’s where my kids went to high school. I just played volleyball in the gym a couple years ago when I visited Chardon. I used to do the play-by-play at football games a lifetime ago with my neighbor, the principal at Chardon.
Three dead and more were wounded.
Chardon isn’t an inner city school. It is 30 miles from Cleveland. It’s out East in the snowbelt. The same snowbelt that hits Buffalo. It’s a quiet town of five thousand that still has a city square. The Geauga County Maple Festival is still held there. This isn’t the kind of town where there should be killings—it is the kind of town you see on the Andy Griffith show. I was even a member of the Jaycees there.
As I read the article I was struck by the leadership Frank Hall exhibited. In the hall, I had visited so many times, was a 17-year-old gunman with a .22 caliber pistol he had stolen from his uncle. Coach Hall heard the gunfire and saw a student fall to the floor, two more with severe wounds and a couple more running, though shot.
If this were you—what would you do? Have you ever come face to face with a gunman? I have. Early in my career I got robbed at gunpoint. Whatever you think you would do is very different when you face a gun that looks to be the size of a cannon. Hall disregarded his own safety and ran toward the gunman shouting for him to stop. The gunman fired as Hall dove behind a vending machine and the bullet whizzed by. Then he got up and started chasing him again.
This isn’t a Hollywood movie. It is a teacher, a father, a coach. More important: a leader. A leader who risked his own life to protect his students. Because of his actions many were saved as the gunman fled out the door.
We face leadership decisions every day, don’t we? Rarely do they have to do with risking our own lives. Or will they involve a gun. They might simply involve having a difficult discussion with an employee. It might involve telling your boss you made the wrong decision. Or, it might just be saying “I’m sorry” to someone you inadvertently offended. It may be taking on the project that no one else wants. Or, it might be putting in the extra time to follow through on an assignment that you haven’t completed.
I’m not sure that I could have run at the gunman and chased him out of school. Does that make me a poor leader … or just a chicken? I’m not sure—but I hope I never have to find out. But Frank Hall illustrates what leadership is all about. He gave me my lesson of the week.