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Social media too often is an outlet for negativity in sports – but also has the capacity for good. Towson head coach Rob Ambrose knows both sides of these communicative platforms.
“People seem to tell me how bad I am at my job in a lot of different ways,” Ambrose said with a laugh. “When they really want to get me, they can get me.”
The same immediate connectivity with which an overzealous spectator might pop off on game day has provided Ambrose, his family and members of the Towson staff means to make positive impacts on the community amid COVID-19 shutdowns.
Maryland has defied nationwide trends in the summer, its documented COVID-19 cases dropping significantly heading into July. But the state endured what Ambrose described as “scary and depressing” times in the spring.
Just before the scheduled date of the Tigers’ 2020 spring game — April 14 — a spike of 1,158 cases were recorded. At month’s end, a staggering 1,730 single-day positive COVID tests came back.
Ambrose heeded the call to pitch in around the community, citing this philosophy: “When everything’s hard,” he said, “look for the people who are helping; the people who run toward the chaos.
ANYONE IN THE TOWSON COMMUNITY-My family & I are available to pick up food, medicine or just run errands for the elderly, infirm or are just overrun with a house full of kids you want to keep safe at home. We take care of each other here. #Community message me if we can help— Rob Ambrose (@Coach_Ambrose) March 23, 2020
“My staff, my family, myself all had the same mindset: If people need help, we’re going to be there to provide it,” he continued. “If you need somebody to run errands, go shopping, get medicine, help around the house. Whatever we could do, it made them feel less hopeless; less alone.”
Finding those physical neighbors most in need began through the digital community — which, in itself, came the lesson that not all platforms are the same.
“I posted on every social media platform I could find,” Ambrose said. “My wife [Melissa] was the one who told me, ‘You know, the alum in California who loves Towson football; you can’t help him and he’s who sees you on [Twitter, etc.].’”
The solution came via the NextDoor app.
Ambrose, his family and the Towson staff used the local networking app tailored for localized interaction to find out what people needed.
With spring ball canceled, Towson coaches traded establishing and stopping runs for grocery and pharmacy runs. The kind of turf that commanded their attention wasn’t on the gridiron, but instead neighbors’ yards in need of care.
In turn, principles preached in football — qualities of leadership and building a familial atmosphere among people of different backgrounds — spread in the communities.
“The real warmth of that came from hearing other people talk about this, and then how they went about their life,” Ambrose explained. “I got, from people I knew, ‘I live three doors down from a lady who never comes out of her house, and she’s scared to death right now; why is it that you, who has no idea who she is, is doing this and I’m not?’ And it kind of [snowballed].
“The area where I live, I heard about people asking, ‘Hey, are you OK? Can I run some errands for you? Can I do something for you? Watching more people reach out to more people, either to give physical help of let them know they had the help if need, it’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing.”
What started through online social media became in-person societal positivity.