Every year when I was a coach, I would challenge the players to remember that our goal was to be the best team we could be, and that eventually we would need contributions from everyone. We saw the fruit of mentor leadership when we got to the Super Bowl. Nick Harper, our veteran defensive back, got hurt and couldn’t finish a game. Young Kelvin Hayden went in for him and made the game-winning interception. Kelvin was prepared for that moment in part because Nick had spent time with him and helped him to be ready. That’s the kind of chemistry great teams have.
The following is an excerpt I wrote for the Every Man’s Bible (which I highly recommend) about having integrity.
The great thing about integrity is that it is truly no respecter of position or wealth or race or gender. It is not determined by shifting circumstances, cultural circumstances, or what you’ve previously achieved. From the moment you are born, you-and you alone-determine whether you will be a person of integrity.
A question I would get a lot when I was coaching was how do you deal with a player who has a bad attitude or not the right attitude. There have been many talented teams who weren’t able to accomplish the type of success they could have had they had the right attitude. As a leader and a father it’s important to help mold and shape children or the people you are leading to buy into the culture you are trying to create. There are 2 things that I would try to do with players I thought didn’t have the right attitude.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll didn’t try to be all things to all people. He didn’t try to change who he was or alter his approach. Instead, he hired coaches with different personalities. I must admit that I didn’t notice this when I was playing for him in Pittsburgh, but it became apparent once I was on the Steelers’ staff for a while. He always looked for good football coaches who were also good people and who had different strengths that they brought to the team.
As a former coach I am often asked, what do you do with a player or what do you do with children or what do you do with anybody who isn’t trying their hardest? I have found when coaching players the most effective technique is not brow beating. If someone wasn’t trying it was important that I didn’t say, “Try harder!” or “You have to do this!” while threatening them with consequences. Instead, I came up with the following system when motivating kids and players, and it has worked well.
When I arrived in Tampa as head coach, I began meeting with the players who lived there, trying to understand from them what needed to be fixed. Although all the issues were relatively minor, they contributed to the team’s second class, defeatist, excuse-laden mentality. I began to sell the philosophy that we are responsible for what happens to us, not anyone or anything else. No excuses, no explanations.
I played three years in the National Football League and coached for twenty-eight. So in thirty-one years, I have seen a lot of crazy things. There have been amazing plays and the stuff of highlight reels. However, when I think about the craziest and wackiest thing I ever saw I would have to go back to my first year as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We were playing the Miami Dolphins in a preseason game. Before the game started we were out on the field during warm-ups and this happened.
Over my years of coaching, I thoroughly enjoyed working with players who worked hard and did everything I asked of them. It was fun to work with coaches and staff who were on board with what I said and did. That was the easy part. But the secret of getting ahead in life is learning how to deal with people who are difficult.
When you run across people like that, what do you do?
We all deal with fear. Whether it is fear of speaking in public, fear of flying, fear of failure, or many other kinds, fear can paralyze us. Many young people today will look at their parents and think they don’t experience fear. But you and I both know that we do. I have had many fears in my life. Life is about overcoming our fears. That is what I try to teach my children. This is what I tell them about how to overcome fear.
A couple of months ago was the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. One of the teams that had a great run was South Carolina. During a press conference, a budding reporter from Sports Illustrated Kids asked a great question to head coach Frank Martin. He asked about in teaching team defense which is more important: technique or attitude. It was a terrific question and Coach Martin gave a great answer.