Thanks to winter break, I’ve been able to do some more “fun” reading than normal. As a result, I hope to post some book reviews on this blog and subsequently update my Suggested Readings page with books I really enjoyed. My recent book selections range from autobiographies to leadership books to sport business books.
The first book I finished this break was entitled Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life and written by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker. I’m sure most of us remember the Indianapolis Colts finally beating the New England Patriots and going on to win the 2007 Super Bowl. In doing so, Tony Dungy became the first African American head coach to win the championship. In this book, Dungy discusses the journey he took to get to that moment. He shares his tough times including the deaths of his parents and son within a span of about a year.
What I really enjoyed about this text is that Dungy did not sugar coat things. He explained when things got tough and why that situation was hard to deal with. As a Christian, I liked seeing how his faith played a role in his life. You hear so many athletes and people in sports praise God for their success but then go out and live completely different lives than that. Dungy does not profess to be perfect and he certainly made his mistakes, but his life truly exemplifies an attempt to live godly and put his faith and family above work. While it’s important to work hard and always give 100% in all that you do, Dungy showed that you don’t have to sleep at the office every night to have a winning program.
He stressed the importance of family and how a team with the right values and appropriate goals were key. For example, he would have the same five key goals each season when he was the head coach for both the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. These goals were not win the division or the Super Bowl. Rather, these goals emphasized important fundamentals like the giveaway/takeaway ratio, fewest penalties, make big plays, etc. While this book doesn’t focus solely on football, it does talk about why Dungy made some of the decisions he did (both on and off the field) and how he led his football teams.
This book is an easy read for anyone ranging from the football fanatics, people working or wanting to work in the sport industry, and even the casual sports fan. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.
There were some interesting tidbits relevant to sports PR and you can read some of those excerpts after the jump:
Dungy gives his team the same handout every season and it’s an article entitled “Five Things That May Get You in USA Today.” These five things aren’t big shockers – alcohol or illegal drugs, being out after 1:00 a.m., driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit, guns, women you don’t know well enough (or that you know too well). He emphasized this article because he “always believed that if our players were careful in these five areas, they wouldn’t have many off-field problems” (p. 273). In sports PR, you get to promote the on field product and the positive things athletes are doing in the community. Unfortunately, it’s also the responsibility of the PR staff to help handle off-field problems that may arise when a player does something bad. Thus, it’s nice to see a head coach actively try to prevent these problems reducing the events we have to deal with each season.
When Dungy was an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings, he learned a lot from head coach Denny Green including when it comes to dealing with the media.
“Denny also believed that his assistant coaches should interact with the media. Being under the media microscope is an acquired skill. I knew how important it was for me to articulate my thoughts and help the media do their jobs without giving away information the club needed to keep private. There’s a strong trend around the league these days toward silencing assistants, with various clubs having a “One Voice” doctrine. I can appreciate that to some extent; it makes it easier for a head coach to craft a message and keep everyone on the same page. At the same time, however, league rules mandate that we give the media access to our players, so the reality is that information is flowing from various sources within the organization anyway. At the end of the day, the only people a One Voice doctrine silences are those who should be the most loyal – the assistant coaches. If people really want to leak something to the press, they can and will do so – with or without a strict media policy.” [p. 80-81]
“We needed to let the media do their jobs, but we also needed to be proactive about getting the message out rather than letting them dictate the stories. I always tried to be very cordial with the media, and my goal was always to be sure that my responses were well thought out. I never wanted to antagonize anyone, but I planned to answer the questions in a way that emphasized the positives without giving away too much information. I think the media appreciated our treating them professionally and with respect, although winning probably improved the tone of their stories than anything else.” [p. 113]
“As a head coach, I’m interviewed by the media a great deal, and I pride myself in answering questions honestly without becoming a distraction. As a result, I tend not to find myself in the midst of controversy. But in 2004, I did – more than once. I don’t usually think in terms of sound bites, but I’ve learned that I have to be more aware of the way they can be misused and the power they have to shape opinions.” [p. 235-236]