As both coaches and players across the country continue to speak out in light of the killing of George Floyd, Maryland head coaches Mark Turgeon and Mike Locksley took to social media on Tuesday to address the current situation, while both added how the programs will turn their emotions into action. On Thursday, Locksley sat down with Big Ten Network and explained how the raw emotions of this week have shaped the team and program.
“Much like a lot of us today and based off what’s happened the last week, I’m all over the place. I’m emotional, I’m scared, angry. I’m concerned but as a parent, the first thing that always comes to mind are my children,” Locksley said. “Not just talking the Mike Jrs, the Kai Locksleys and the Koris, but my 105 football children that I’m completely invested in and responsible for. And I can tell you there’s been a lot of sleepless nights this past week. We’re trying to one, not be emotional. One of the things I can remember from Nick Saban, he always talked about don’t be emotional, don’t make decisions when you’re emotional, kind of take a step back. And it took me about five days from seeing the video of George Floyd’s death and for me to even be able to put into words how I was feeling. So I knew if it was that tough for me, that I had to one, put football in the back of the line for meeting our football family and find out where our players were.”
As Maryland offered a platform to the 105 players to voice their wide range of emotions, the efforts of the staff centered around their emotional state.
“For us, Monday’s team meeting was all about their emotional stability, where they were. I saw a bunch of the things that went across their social medias over the weekend and it was really important for us to give them a platform or a voice to be heard, while at the same time as a parent, trying to help them navigate these emotions and these feelings that they all had—black, white, brown. Our football family is a microcosm of society but the difference is we all have the same family name. We spent Monday and Tuesday, for the most part, just checking on their welfare and where they were from a mental standpoint and giving them a platform and the ability to communicate to us as coaches, and me as the leader, where they were. Find out what they wanted to do, how they wanted to respond and it was very rewarding for me as the leader of the Maryland family that these kids came out with a unified statement that they wrote.”
That team statement emphasized how they’re concentrating their efforts to turn emotion into action as they highlighted an emphasis on voter registration within the area to support underserved areas of the community. As Locksley added how “we always talk about team and family,” the team turned in a collective effort to pen their emotion to paper that ultimately, led to the team statement.
“We feel like we’re a lot more powerful together because we have so different people that are a part of it. But the thing I was so much more proud about was that they also wanted to be a part of the solution. They didn’t want to just put words out, and they came back to me when we reconvened later that day as a team and we put all these on paper which is what became the statement. They also said, ‘Coach, we want you to help us by bringing in people.’ We do programming on domestic violence, drug abuse, gambling, all types of issues, sleep, health, welfare, but they wanted me to do something on racism and helping educate them a little bit and bringing in people that can talk about it.”
As the program looks to expand their philanthropy efforts moving forward, Maryland has their efforts set on promoting awareness for both the voting and registration process within the area.
“The first one to me was the leadership group came to me and they said ‘Coach, we want to come out unified. We always talk about team and family, well we don’t want 105 guys putting out their individual statements. But then they also talked about one of the solutions is utilizing the American right to vote, which I can tell you when I was 18 and 22 years old, I never voted and they all said one of the ways we can make a change is if we use the power of voting in our local communities, whether it’s voting for the sheriffs in our counties or the county legislators. And they wanted to be educated more on how to vote, how to find and do the research on who you’re voting for. Then they wanted to take it a step further and wanted to be a big part of the voters registration in some of the underserved communities that are near our campus, so close to DC and they want to go in and help get people that don’t normally vote to register to vote to make a change as well as help those that can’t get to voting polls or precincts transportation.”
For Locksley, the player-driven initiative reinforced his faith in the program as he continues to see the team’s mantra come to fruition.
“This came from them and I always say that a coach-driven team is just a good team, but when it’s a player-driven team, they become great. I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of 18 to 22 year old football players here at Maryland to not only come up with a statement, but also figure out a solution to how they can be a part of the change.”