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.
Around this time of year the warm weather starts to return. Everything begins to bloom, which fills the air with pollen. Unfortunately, all of that pollen can jump start allergies giving us cold symptoms, such as sore throats and coughing. These things can keep us from enjoying the new beautiful weather. Bad habits are an awful lot like allergies.
Under a clear, blue sky, a man sprints to catch a speeding train. He has fired a machine gun at his pursuers-Nazis-and thrown grenades at them, setting various other charges and traps for them as well. Now, he has almost caught up with the German transport train that he and his fellow prisoners of war have commandeered and are riding into Switzerland. He closes in on the train, running with his hand out…and is shot and killed with his hand just inches from his fellow prisoners and only feet away from the Swiss border and safety. Death by inches.
People look at me, especially when I was on the sidelines as a coach, and say, “He’s cool, he’s calm, he’s collected, does he ever get angry?” They would also hear stories about how I never raised my voice at the team. Well, I can tell you this, my high school and junior high buddies know that that’s not the Tony Dungy they know. I was a hot head in high school. I was a hot head in college, but I learned the ability to keep my emotions under control, particularly controlling anger. But I do get angry and this is what I do about it.