This story originally appeared in the University of Richmond publication UR Now
Playing basketball for the Spiders provided useful lessons for two University of Richmond graduates as they rose to top positions in law enforcement.
Rick Edwards, a 1997 grad, became Richmond’s police chief in July after a nearly 24-year career with the department. Eric English, a 1989 alum, was named Henrico County’s chief of police three years ago after serving as chief in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and rising through the ranks during nearly 30 years with the Richmond Police. Edwards and English, both criminal justice majors, say basketball taught them the importance of teamwork, strategy, and how to work with a wide range of people.
“From a team perspective, you have a common goal in sports — try to win,” said English, a guard who played on the 1987-88 team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. “Everybody plays a role.”
It’s similar to law enforcement. “Our goal is to try to reduce crime,” English said. “The only way to do that is to have a game plan.”
Just as he did when he was team captain his senior year, English sets the standard as police chief for others to follow. “As chief, I can’t resolve issues by myself. Everybody has to work extremely hard together to resolve issues in our county. We ask everybody to play their part.”
Neither chief said he planned on pursuing a career in law enforcement until arriving at the University, where they learned of the profession’s many opportunities and the importance of giving back to the community.
“Basketball to me is a lot like police work,” said Edwards, captain of the Spiders’ 1996-97 team, who later played professionally for two years in Europe. “There are a lot of life lessons in basketball. You’re learning to be part of a team, deal with adversity, and understand how important it is to work with people of all backgrounds.”
Playing for a Division 1 basketball program also taught Edwards time management as he pushed himself to outwork others.
“There was so much practice and preparation, so to me time management was a big lesson as well as learning to delay gratification,” he said. “Obviously students at UR are very bright, and I was competing with those students in the classroom while still devoting a huge portion of my time preparing for basketball. As I tell my son, who’s playing basketball, ‘You can’t control the outcome, all you can control is your effort.’ That was a big lesson for me.”