The Meaning of a Mentor: A Conversation with Coach Stuart Krohn
If we’re lucky, we get at least one mentor that changes the direction of our lives. That person could be a teacher, a coach, or a family member. The student athletes of the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Rugby program are lucky enough to have all three in Coach Stuart Krohn. After an All-American college rugby career and a professional playing career in France, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and South Africa, Krohn settled in Southern California to coach the Santa Monica Rugby Club in 1999. During that time he started teaching English and designing a plan to bring rugby to the economic disadvantaged communities of South Los Angeles.
By 2003 rugby was an integral part of the ICEF Public Schools ethos. Its goal was for “all students to attend and compete at the top 100 colleges and universities in the nation. [Today it] operates 14 schools educating 4,200 students in grades K through 12.” That population divides into “82 percent African-American students and 16 percent Hispanic.” Many of these students come from families without a patriarch, meaning that Coach Krohn is also their father figure.
Director James Brown documents the influence of Coach Krohn and the ICEF Rugby program in Red White Black & Blue Odyssey, a collaboration with PACE Films and XLrator Media. It follows the girls and boys teams as they compete in tournaments around China, New Zealand, and England. Along the way we meet students as they try to accept unsatisfying familial relationships, become leaders on and off the field, maintain exemplary grades to earn college scholarships, and learn how to communicate as adults. The most moving story is that of Leodes van Buren, Jr. We follow Leodes through his high school career as he tries to reclaim the name father soiled years earlier with criminal indiscretions. During each step of his development, Leodes performs a Google search in the hopes that his name and accomplishments are the top result. All the ICEF students deserve admiration for their tenacity, but Leodes’ journey of self discovery is relatable for anyone that’s struggled with their own identity. His spirit is modeled on Coach Krohn’s determination and the purest expression of joy for life I’ve seen on or off the screen.
It was a privilege talking with Coach Krohn about his career and passion for helping students discover their strengths in leadership, team building, and character development. We spent a good portion of our time discussing the importance of maintaining compassion to become a successful mentor. But the coach rarely if ever takes credit. The documentary reveals that his inspiring humility is instilled in each of his players. He’s a man that’s discovered how to manage his passion for the game of rugby into a system of citizen-creation that ensures any community would be lucky to have one of his students. In this context, rugby is much more than a game. It’s a blueprint to become better human beings. And that skillset translates into personal happiness and social advancement. We could all learn something from this film.
I recommend checking out the 5 out of 5 hairpiece-rated Red White Black & Blue Odyssey when it hits VOD and iTunes on August 15th. If you’ve ever had someone to go out of their way to make a difference in your life, you’ll be able to relate to the gift Coach Krohn provides his students. You may also be inspired to do the same for someone in your community. For more information about ICEF Public Schools, make sure to visit its official website, and for specific information about the ICEF Rugby program, visit ICEFRugby.org. You can also follow the film’s journey on Facebook.