Behind the Whistle: Serving Others During Crisis


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Derrel Martin is the head coach at Lee University.

Martin retired from the FBI in 2017 after a 21-year career investigating various criminal matters including fraud, violent crimes and terrorism. In 2009, he served a tour in Eastern Afghanistan embedded with the US Army. He finished his career as a terrorism and tactics instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

He has coached lacrosse on some level for the last 16 years, and he is currently in his fourth year as the head women’s lacrosse coach at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Amazingly, it has been 20 years since the terror attacks on 9/11/01. Many people faced immeasurable fear that day and responded with selfless service. Many were first responders. Some were lacrosse players. I summarized a few stories of those who served that day, and in the aftermath, but there are many more. Each responded to unexpected crisis with character traits that we value in teammates and leaders.

When faced with crisis, they bravely chose to serve others. I want our current student-athletes to know their stories of bravery, leadership, service and sacrifice. My hope is that we will continue to share their testimony.

Many of you probably know the story of Welles Crowther. If you have not viewed some version of the video “The Man in The Red Bandana,” please do so. Welles was a Boston College lacrosse player who often carried a red bandana that his father had given him. He was described as polite, well-spoken, devoted, caring, self-disciplined and protective ... all the traits we look for in a teammate. He served as a volunteer firefighter out of Nyack, N.Y.

On 9/11/2001, Welles was working as an equity trader at the World Trade Center, and he did not escape the falling tower. Some days later, reports surfaced of an unknown man wearing a red bandana who organized a rescue effort and directed victims to the only working stairwell. He then returned to upper floors to bring additional victims down. Witnesses reported that he acted calmly and with a sense of authority as he saved many lives that day. (Read More.)

In the face of extreme danger, Welles Crowther put others before himself. Likely, he could have exited the building and saved himself, but instead, he showed immense bravery by returning for others. He could not have known that he would face a life-or-death crisis that morning, but his training had prepared him to respond. Like hundreds of other emergency responders that day, Welles moved towards danger instead of away from it.

First Lieutenant Roslyn L. Schulte was a high school All-American lacrosse player and team captain from St. Louis. In college, she played lacrosse at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), where she served as a team captain and graduated in 2006. At USAFA, she excelled in leadership and chose to become an intelligence officer instead of a pilot, as she thought it would better serve her country.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2009, she helped teach Afghani military officials how to gather and interpret intelligence. Schulte was killed in May 2009 when her vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device as it traveled in a convoy. Her father recalled that she could talk to anyone, from generals to privates, and people would listen to her. She was described as a great leader who was confidently in charge; someone who would not be bullied. (Read More.

Roslyn Schulte exemplified the U.S. Air Force core values — INTEGRITY FIRST, SERVICE BEFORE SELF and EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO. She confidently sought leadership opportunities and made choices based on the needs of others ahead of her own needs.

Duke lacrosse player Jimmy Regan was described as a great teammate and friend. A player who always had a smile on his face, and the team loved to be around him. After graduating from Duke in 2002, he declined several lucrative job opportunities and enlisted in the Army. He told his former teammates, “This is what I have to do.” Regan excelled in the Army, becoming a Ranger and fire team leader with two deployments each to Afghanistan and Iraq. Regan was killed in February 2007 when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle. Duke lacrosse continues to honor his memory by wearing a patch with his number and initials. (Read More.)

We can’t always anticipate when a crisis will occur, but if we have prepared and trained, we will typically act according to our training. This past summer, one of my players served as a pool lifeguard and pulled out struggling swimmers on two separate occasions. She didn’t know that there would be an emergency requiring her to act, but she had the necessary training so that she could confidently respond. She kept an eye out for trouble, communicated with the other staff when she spotted someone struggling and then acted with little regard for her own safety.

Unexpected crisis will come to our players in some form again this year. Will it be health, injury, the loss of a loved one, finances, academics, emotional status, mental well-being or relationships? Who knows? We are either in the midst of a crisis, just came out of one or headed towards one. When our players arrive on campus, we discuss how crisis flows in such a cycle.

We ask them to:

Know yourself and others.

  • Identify potential crises in yourself and others.

  • Learn from past mistakes.

  • Train yourself by using visualization of possible scenarios.

  • Conduct self-care; then care for others.

  • Learn how to relieve your stress.

Know how to communicate.

  • Seek help. Don’t face crisis alone.

  • Rely on the team.

Know truth.

  • Think critically. Filter data for truth.

  • What are your personal beliefs and truths? We ask each player to write it down.

In an address to the American people, President Barack Obama pointed out that the 9/11 attacks were intended to cause fear, and it was important for us as a nation to defend our ideals, to reaffirm our character as a nation bound by our creed of “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many, one.”

Let us remember those who faced fear and chose to serve others before themselves. Many are still among us. Ask about their stories.

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