MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fall sports have been disrupted, but not forgotten.
Lambert Brown is the head football coach at defending state champion Wayzata High School. And this fall, he’s teaching his kids more than football.
The 2019 state championship will always be a special memory for Brown.
“Really believed what we’re about, and wanted to be that group to take it to the next level, to see that hard work pay off,” Brown said.
Then there was the 2020 season that was not to be, and the dream of back-to-back championships put on hold.
“Most of it was just talking about how we respond, really. You know, every team in the state has been given the exact same kind of deck of cards, the same hand,” Brown said.
And Friday nights look haunting when your body tells you there should be something more.
“Exactly at 5:50 [p.m.] I’m thinking about … I’d be walking out with the special teams right now and getting ready to get on the field,” Brown said. “So an odd feeling, not a feeling I like or want to get used to, but right now our reality.”
But there has been more to this offseason. Brown is one of only two African American coaches at the 6A level. So when the state changed, and eventually the world, with the death of George Floyd in May, Brown became a focal point — but understood he may not have all the answers.
“I can speak for myself that when I speak, people often feel like I’m speaking for an entire race or for what everybody thinks, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on anybody,” he said. “I think the onus on that growth for people, and that education for people is falling on our students of color, and our staff of color, which I think is unfair pressure to them, and it’s unfair.”
He took some of his team to Floyd’s memorial at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. But more importantly, Brown asked his team to set an example to the school.
“Making sure that everybody knows that they … belong here, that they’ve got a place here, that they’re valued here, that they matter here, and then not allowing other people to take that away,” he said.
The simple answer is they want to return to Friday night lights and the pursuit of another state title. The more complex is what they have learned by not playing football.
“Right now, we’re focusing on … building great relationships with ourselves, our staff, our players, and just continuing to grow that way. Focusing on just being a, you know, transformational force in our kids’ lives and our players’ lives,” Brown said. “However, we’re pretty blessed with all the things that we have. And at the end of the day, it’s a game, and there’s greater things going on in the world. And so our ability to kind of put a focus on that, gain some perspective, I think has also been good as well.”