Super Bowl-winning coach, Tony Dungy has made NFL history with his success and he is a respected voice in sports media. Dungy speaks about the important things beyond the field: integrity, self-development, equality and health. Often times with success, there is a game plan and Dungy followed his, and he is who he is because of it.
Education, empowerment and encouragement sums up what he places on his list of importance. The time that he gives to programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Club is priceless. The words he believes in expresses and embodies the many great qualities of his character.
He gives insightful advice to all athletes, a voice of wisdom, experiences and knowledge. He's the first African-American coach to lead the Indianapolis Colts to the 2007 Super Bowl. He has taken the time share with me the importance of integrity, trust, gender diversity, health and attending college.
NS!: Integrity and maintaining the trust of the public are important to you. Do you think that there should be conferences for the youth, with the importance of marketability and integrity being the focal points?
Dungy: Absolutely. Coaches and advisors should stress this to all of their athletes. Whenever we can get young people to conferences about those topics, it would be beneficial. We need to get them to think about their futures. To have college coaches and scouts talk about qualities that are important for them — including integrity – would help youth understand that it is about more than just having talent.
NS!: You believe that attending college is important because of these core values: academics, social skills, spirituality and athleticism, and they’re important in self-development. There are some high school athletes and undergrad athletes who go directly to pro-sports. The socio-economic status of some athletes has often times been given the reason why they go straight to the pros. What is your point-of-view on college versus economics?
Dungy: Economics plays a role and we can't deny that. However, there is short-term economics versus long-term economics. Many athletes who forgo college fit in the short term but not the long term. They miss out on that very training you mentioned and they aren't prepared to take advantage of the money they receive. The LeBron Jameses and Kobe Bryants’ are the exceptions. More often, teens stay in pro-sports only a short time. In fact, studies have shown that NFL players who graduate from college play longer and make more money in their careers than those who don't graduate from college. So, in 99 percent of cases, I advise athletes to go to college and take advantage of what it offers.
NS!: The one thing that we can count on in life is that things will change. Decades before now, the issue was racial diversity in sports. Now, there are gender-related matters. In the WNBA, there are female coaches and there has been talk about a female head coach in the NBA. Do you eventually see a female head coach in the NFL?
Dungy: I think a female head coach is a long way off for the NFL. But I do think teams will begin to use female staff and possibly assistant coaches. The NBA is beginning to do that and I could see that happening in the NFL.
NS!: In the eyes of some fans, it’s more than athleticism, wins, losses and championships. Pro-sports and some athletes are associated with the glitter, gold and glory. You’ve had hundreds of players willing to place their health on the back burner in order to get on the field. How can everything be put back in perspective, where their lives matter more than the moment?
Dungy: I believe we have to talk about perspective, that money, fame etc., can't be the primary reasons to be in sports. They can be part of the experience but sports cannot give us our identity. What we do should never replace who we are. That's the message we have to get across to young athletes; sports cannot be your life. They should be part of our life's work. We have to have more of our current athletes talk about that because they are the ones the kids will listen to.
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