'Remember the Titans' coaches bring diversity message to Miami Shores community
By: Julianna M. Klose
They didn’t have much in common when they met in 1971 and, by their own admission, still don’t today, but when Coaches Herman Boone and Bill Yoast took over the football team at the newly de-segregated T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., they knew they had a job to do together.
Their team, portrayed in the 2000 film, “Remember the Titans,” went on to win the 1971 state championship. Boone and Yoast brought their experiences, and message of diversity, respect and leadership to an audience of more than 900 at Barry Jan. 28 as part of a program developed through Miami Shores’ new Community Learning Partnership.
“Coach Yoast put his difference aside, and people came on board, and we produced the most powerful football team in America with kids who didn’t like each other,” Boone said.
The setting for this historic team was when Boone, and African-American, beat out Yoast, a Caucasian, for the top coaching position at the newly racially-mixed school. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, both coaches worked together to produce a team out of former rivals.
“We learned to celebrate our difference rather than make them a problem to be solved because we had a job to do,” Boone said. “’Remember the Titans’ is not about football. ‘Remember the Titans’ is about a group of young men in Alexandria, Va. who found it necessary to accept the soul of an individual rather than reject that soul based on the color of their skin.”
Their success, as coaches and individuals, paved the way for further accomplishments, in their players and in their country.
“Were we successful? I think so,” Yoast said. “Not because we won the state championship, not because we were district champions, not because we were second in the nation. We were successful because of what’s going on with those young men today.”
The original players have since formed the ’71 Original Titans Foundation, dedicated to helping high school students pursue higher education. Since being formed in 2000, the foundation has awarded more than six scholarships to students who otherwise may not have had the means to further their education.
And, with the Inauguration of the first African-American President, Barack Obama, this month, both coaches believe the struggles of their time set the stage for this historic event.
“What really touched me [about the Inauguration] was how happy people were,” Yoast said. “They were so happy they had tears in their eyes. I had that same feeling in a locker room in Northern Virginia in 1971. I saw the same things. I saw parents with tears in their eyes, and not just because we had just won the state championship.”
Yoast jokes, in fact, that Boone should have applied for a “patent” on his process, citing it as the same, but on a smaller scale, as that used by Obama during his campaign.
The lecture was part of larger diversity programming brought to four schools in Miami Shores through the new Community Learning Partnership (CLP). Along with Barry University, students, faculty and administrators from Miami-Country Day School, The Cushman School and Doctor’s Charter School were involved. Although diversity was this year’s topic, the CLP is an ongoing collaboration, founded as a forum for sharing projects and resources to further common goals and interests, thus benefitting the Miami Shores community.
In addition to Wednesday night’s lecture, Boone and Yoast also met with a smaller group of students from Barry and Doctor’s Charter school earlier in the day, sharing their thoughts on diversity and inclusiveness. Their message, presented before students ranging from college-aged to second graders, crossed boundaries of age and race. It’s a message also shared by event organizers, and those involved in the CLP.
“Believe it or not, our country is the only country in the world that is home to people from every country in the world.Therefore, which of you can claim to own the American experience,” Boone said. “By talking to each other, you get a chance to understand each other. By understanding, you get a chance to respect each other, and respect is the emotional glue that holds our communities together.”
In 1971, racial tensions ran high at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, as three schools merged to form a newly integrated one. Out of this experience the story of Remember the Titans emerged; and an undefeated football team was born. They won the state championship that year. While there have been about 30 more Virginia state championship games since then, that 1971 season, coached by Herman Boone, will always be special.
After beating out local favorite and successful coach Bill Yoast of the formerly all-white Hammond High to become head coach of the Titans, Boone faced the challenge of a lifetime. Although honored by his appointment, he had to endure racial intolerance and the disapproval of Yoast’s supporters. However, after putting their prejudices aside, the two coaches worked together to unify the team - a team whose former rivalry was only exacerbated by the strain between the black and white players. The team came together to form a bond with a common vision - to win football games.
Through hard work and inspiring his coaching staff and players, Coach Boone led his team to the state championship that season. Today, Boone is retired but continues to motivate and inspire audiences with his presentations on respect, teamwork and community involvement.
No one who has ever seen the Disney movie Remember The Titans will forget the image of Coach Bill Yoast patrolling the sidelines motivating his team to victory. In the sea of turmoil that accompanied the times, Coach Yoast was the calming influence. He was the anchor. The blockbuster-hit film's portrayal of Yoast has become an American classic. While the movie has had remarkable box office success, what is more remarkable is the journey that took a poverty-stricken adolescent from Tin Can Hollow Alabama to a Hollywood premier.
That journey has been chronicled in Yoast's critically acclaimed biography Remember This Titan. Charged with racial tension and drama, Yoast’s book ranks among the favorites of many, including a top five Wall Street Journal pick of former NFL quarterback, Boomer Esiason: “Bill Yoast was the coach of the Titans at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., in 1972, an era when pressures for affirmative action were already making themselves felt. Despite a long and successful history as head coach, Mr. Yoast was told to step down—his job was being given to a black coach, and he would work as an assistant. This put both the coaches and players in a dicey position, agitated and brooding over the racial resentments that had been brought to the surface. This moving saga reveals how players and their coaches, functioning as a team, manage in the end to overcome their mistrust and animosity. The book speaks to the strengths of football, and it does so eloquently.”
Yoast was ahead of the times fighting racial injustice and behind the times seeking personal glory. Coach Yoast has become one of the most respected coaches of our times for one reason. From the beginning he anchored himself to integrity. He preached it, he lived it, and he protected it. For him, integrity was not a word but a lifestyle. For him, the words: honor, kindness, loyalty, commitment, and hard work, have meaning that extends beyond the dictionary into action.
At a time when heroes are quickly fading from view and integrity has taken a back seat to convenience, thankfully there are people like Coach Yoast who we can turn to for inspiration and guidance.
Yoast has delivered his messages on leadership, team building, change, and diversity across North America. His wisdom comes from experience. His presentation is as down to earth and relevant as the man himself.
Audiences around the country, from seventy-year-old retirees to fifteen-year-old kids, athletes and non-athletes alike, have found Yoast's speeches transfixing and inspirational. His charismatic presence, his honesty, wit and Southern charm has delighted audiences across the country and kept them around long after he is finished, seeking autographs and a chance to meet him up close. At a time when teamwork, tolerance, and discipline have moved to center stage in America, Coach Yoast is the perfect speaker for any occasion.
For more information please visit his web site, http://www.yoast.net.