By Branson Wright
NABJ Black News & Views
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A mother and her high school-aged son waited patiently in the office of Ted Ginn Sr. earlier this week.
The son was serving a 10-day suspension from Glenville High School due to fighting. Like many parents in this East Side community, she wanted a positive difference. For Ginn, this is a familiar scenario.
“I often meet with parents who want a change by putting their sons into a better position to succeed,” Ginn, a school founder and coach, told NABJ Black News & Views. “Unfortunately, society often overlooks African American boys. But we’re here to love them and educate them,” he said.
VIDEO: Ted Ginn Sr. shares about his passion for boosting Cleveland’s young people
Ginn has spread his love in this way since 2007, when he established an all-boys institution named after him. Ginn Academy is a part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It’s the first all boys public school in Ohio. Many of its students are at-risk in a city ranked in the top 10 in violent crime and ranked No. 1 as the poorest large city in America.
Discipline is paramount at Ginn Academy, starting with a dress code that requires students to wear suits and ties. The school has a 9th-12th grade enrollment of about 350 students and uses a curriculum that includes an emphasis on science and math. Compared to the other Cleveland metro schools, Ginn Academy has a graduation rate of 92 percent, compared to 76 percent logged by the rest of the schools in the district.
Ginn considers his teaching philosophy old-school.
“We get back to the basics of training, the importances of family and church,” Ginn said. “I use football and track and field as a tool.”
Ginn, a former security guard at nearby Glenville High School, has been Glenville’s football coach since 1997. Basketball is the only varsity sport at Ginn Academy. Students at the academy are eligible to play football for Ginn at Glenville.
And they have performed well enough this season to put themselves into position to play in Saturday’s Division IV state football final against Cincinnati Wyoming (15-0) in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ginn often says his role in the community isn’t about winning football games but also winning lives.
“That’s always the main thing,” said Ginn, 67. “But winning a state title this weekend will not only be big for our community but for all of the city schools in Cleveland.”
Under Ginn, Glenville (14-0) has logged several firsts. For instance, it became the first Cleveland public school to advance to the state playoffs in 2009. And a victory on Saturday would make Glenville the first city school to win a state football title.
This is all from a coach who has helped over 150 students earn college football scholarships over the past 25 years. Four of his former players are in the NFL: Coby Bryant (Seattle Seahawks), Marshon Lattimore (New Orleans Saints), Frank Clark (Kansas City Chiefs) and Justin Hardee (New York Jets) and 21 of his players also played in the NFL.
Ginn said: “It’s scary to think if I wasn’t here with a plan or an idea, can you imagine what would’ve happened to many of these kids over the past 22 years?”
One of his former NFL players is linebacker Pierre Woods. The same Woods who when he first met Ginn never dreamed he’d play for Michigan, play in a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots or conduct a phone interview while vacationing in Bangkok.
“I went to high school and played football just to be playing,” said Woods, a 2001 Glenville graduate. “Coach Ginn told me to get my grades up so I can go to college. I started to take things seriously.”
But it wasn’t that easy.
“I remember Pierre walking away from me talking crazy, saying, ‘You’re not my daddy,’” Ginn said. “His older brother told me not to listen to (Pierre) and keep doing what I was doing. I did it because I had big expectations for him.”
Those expectations resulted in an undergraduate and graduate degree and six years in the NFL.
“I’ve experienced things I never dreamed of thanks to someone who sacrificed for me, fought for me, pushed me, and helped me see a vision,” Woods said. “He’s a father, he’s a coach, a mentor, a visionary.”
Unfortunately, Woods will not make Saturday’s state final because he’ll be overseas, but he’ll make it back to Cleveland in time to celebrate an expected victory.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll have some type of parade for (Coach Ginn and the team),” Woods said. “Hopefully I’ll be back in time and if not, everyone knows I’ll be there in spirit.”