As a society, we claim that we like athletes who tend to be humble and quiet, but in reality, those aren’t the guys who get the focus—at least not as much as the other guys who are trying to bring attention to their own names. Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders came into the NFL together in 1989. Barry was “old school.” He did his job and played spectacular football, and when he scored a touchdown, he handed the ball to the official and then went back to the bench. After games, it was hard to get him to talk about himself. He would praise his offensive lineman, then head out and stay away from the camera as much as possible.
Sometimes taking risks in life doesn’t necessarily pay off. When it was time for me to leave the Steelers in 1988, Lauren and I really agonized over our options. I was offered jobs by two coaches who ended up in the Hall of Fame, both in the same off-season: Bill Parcels of the Giants and Bill Walsh of the 49ers. I also had good interviews with Sam Wyche in Cincinnati and Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City. All four men were great coaches and good people. I had played for Bill Walsh and Sam Wyche when I was in San Francisco, and I knew I could be comfortable with either. Of course, Bill Parcels had recently won his first Super Bowl, and my interview with him was a defensive coach’s dream: sitting in an office, talking football theory with Bill and his staff-Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel.
When I started coaching in the NFL in 1981, there were fourteen African American assistant coaches in the whole league, and no head coaches or coordinators. I didn’t show up my first day of work thinking that I was going to be a head coach and win a Super Bowl, but I did think about the future and reaching goals. I wanted to learn as much as I could and do my job well. I believed if I did that, I’d get promoted within the organization. And I didn’t let the fact that there were no black men in those high-level jobs put a damper on my thinking. I always believed that, because of who I was working for and the people around me, I would learn enough to be an excellent coach.
Don’t relish conflict, but don’t fear it. Handling conflict is one of the most misunderstood parts of our existence. It is often unpleasant; many people try to avoid it. Others seem to thrive on the stress of it. I think some even use it to overpower others. Maybe that’s why they look for opportunities to bully people.
However, conflict is best seen as an opportunity to understand our differences, since that’s when conflict usually arises: when we see something different. I handle conflict in the following 3 ways.
Just because you have erred doesn’t mean you’re out of the running to be a good dad. We all fall short. The Bible wasn’t written for those who have it figured out, but instead, it is God’s Word to those of us who are muddling through life. I believe that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but we have been given the freedom through Christ to forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead as we “press on to reach the end of the race.”
I used to talk to my teams regularly about perception versus reality. Valuing style over substance happens in football a lot, just as it does in life. Certain players are perceived by fans and the media as different people than the ones their families and friends know. Certain teams are looked at in ways that may not be accurate. Analysts are always using terms like “a finesse team, a physical team, a dome team, an offensive team,” and so on.
As a parent, I am often talking to my kids about their behavior and how to correct it. They’ve heard me say many times, “Look this is something we don’t do,” or “Mom and I have talked to you about this,” or “God has talked about this.” But every now and then they will fire back at me about something I have done. “Hey dad, you’ve talked to us about being calm and under control and you’re yelling at us.” Have you ever had your kid call you out as a parent?
For about thirty years I was a competitive athlete, from elementary school, middle and high school, all the way through college and in the NFL. Then I was an NFL coach. I’ve always had a highly competitive nature, setting goals, and going after them, year after year. Then I retired and no longer had the athletic field, but I’m still just as competitive as I ever was.
Alcohol consumption and especially teen drinking has become a major problem in our society today. There are many reasons for that, but one is our kids get so many messages that drinking alcohol is fun and cool. That is what they are seeing. As parents, we need to be proactive on the other side of it. First, my wife and I have chosen not to drink alcohol and not because we think it’s wrong as adults. We’ve chosen not to because don’t want to give our kids the idea that we can do it as adults, while they need to wait. They see us not drinking and hopefully, that will rub off on them. Second, we also have a lot of conversations with them about the dangers of alcohol, especially young people drinking alcohol. In those ways, we’ve tried to be proactive.
Last month baseball lost one of the greatest pitchers of all time in Roy Halladay who passed away in a plane crash. There were many tributes to him, but one thing expressed over and over again was his work ethic. He would always be the first person at the ballpark to work out. He learned how to develop good habits, such as discipline and hard work. Habits such as these made him into a sure bet Hall of Famer.