Friday, March 9, 2012

Reading Huddle: Tony Dungy's "Quiet Strength"

Well, here we are.  Time for the discussion of our first selection for “Reading Huddle,” Naptime Huddle’s book club:  Quiet Strength:  The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life, by Tony Dungy, with Nathan Whitaker.  If you read the book, I’d like to say thank you for embarking on this experiment with me.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I hope you enjoy Reading Huddle, but don't let it come to this...

If you’re new to Naptime Huddle, click here for the post introducing Quiet Strength for some background.  If you want to read it, bookmark this page and read no further—there are spoilers ahead!   Check back in when you’ve read it and would like to thoughts of me and (hopefully) others on the book.  One more thing:  I haven't mentioned this in a while, but Naptime Huddle  is on Facebook.  When you have a moment, check us out, or hit "Like" in the right side bar of this page.  Other than links to posts, there are also links to other interesting things online, and news updates.

Below are some questions that occurred to me as I was reading Quiet Strength, along with my “two cents” on some of them (frankly, for others I only had one cent-worth of thought).  If you’d like, feel free to post any of your thoughts, or reactions to mine, in the “Comments” section below the post.

1.  Dungy says that the occasion that made him decide to devote himself to God was in high school, when his bout with mononucleosis that kept him out of football for a time.  Is this a surprising attitude to hear from a teenager?  Or, would you just be surprised to hear it from a high school student today?


2.  Dungy credits his parents with his work ethic and devotion to learning.  In what ways do you think this translated to his approach to coaching?

3.  Even though the intersection between religion and sports has gotten a great deal of attention this past year with the presence of Tim Tebow, it appears from Quiet Strength that its presence in the locker room isn’t new.  From team Bible study groups to team chaplains, it seems that religion has a significant presence in football, at least behind the scenes.  Do you think this is the case in other sports as well?  Why is religion so much more accepted in sports, or at least football, than in other work environments?  Imagine all of the jobs you have had.  What would have been the reaction if you wanted to start a Bible study group or suggested hiring a chaplain?

My Two Cents:  Part of the reason I wanted to read Quiet Strength was to get a perspective of football as a “job,” not just a sport, and it seemed that seeing it through the eyes of a coach was a good way of doing that.  However, I started thinking of this issue from an owner’s perspective.  For the most part, NFL owners have had careers outside of team ownership, primarily in the business world.  I wonder whether some owners look at owning a football team as an opportunity to put their personal stamps on work environments of their own creation.  A religious presence may be one of those areas that are taboo in the business world.  However, in the position as an owner, one can have the freedom to openly practice that part of life.   Perhaps this was what the early NFL owners wanted and, therefore, religion became a firm fixture in team cultures.  Of course, I could be way off.

4.  Tony said his favorite “pure coaching” job was as defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs because he only had to focus on eight players.  This gave him the ability to “focus [his] attention on details that would make them better players.”  He was also able to get to know them personally.  Which of his jobs would have been your favorite?

5.  It’s clear early in the book that Dungy greatly appreciated a good balance between work and family.  Too often we see this as a female desire.  Did having a “macho” job as a football coach give Dungy the luxury of creating this balance?  Clearly, as a head coach he would have the power to make this a work-life balance a priority for his team and staff.  Do you think players have any such control over how much time they can spend with their families?

6.  In high school, Tony quit the football team because he believed that the team’s vote for the captains was influenced by race.  He took a hard view of race then, but he was puzzled when the Green Bay Packers interviewed him for the head coach position when he was clearly not the kind of coach they wanted.  The Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and senior administration positions, was established 16 years after his interview.  Was Dungy naïve in not considering the possibility that he was probably interviewed because he was African American?  What do you think of the Rooney Rule? 

My Two Cents:  It may have been Dungy’s firing from Tampa Bay that led to the final push for the Rooney Rule.  (Hmm, I smell a future post here.)  However, in the 1980’s, the league already had a minority internship program designed to encourage growth in the hiring of minority coaches.  Clearly, the issue was starting to gain traction even then.  I hate to accuse Dungy of naïveté in any context, but some bell probably should have rung in his mind.  Maybe it did, though, and he judiciously kept it out of his recollection of the incident.

7.  As a coach, Dungy’s signature motivating phrase was “Let’s do what we do.”  However, many times that can be a defeatist statement—i.e., “You can only do what you can.  Nothing more.”  Is Dungy’s version only motivational in a sporting context?

8.  If you want to take a simple view of leadership, you can say that there are two types of leaders:  Screamers and Teachers.  Tony Dungy clearly chose to take the teaching approach to leadership.  Which do you think is better?  Which motivates better?  Have you had one or both of these types of bosses?  To which did you respond better?  Why?

My Two Cents:   To me, one aspect of motivating those you lead should be to make them want to help you succeed (or at least look good).  When you are led by a Screamer, your primary motivation is to do what you need to avoid being the target of screaming.  No more, no less.  You certainly aren’t motivated to help the Screamer look good.   However, since a Teacher is making you better by giving you knowledge and instruction, it is only human nature to want to return the favor.

9.  When he got to Tampa Bay, Dungy started his practice of “checking the corners”—i.e., looking at the upper reaches of the stadium on game days to see if they were filled with fans.  Given what we’ve learned about him, are you surprised that he did this?  Do you think that he used it as a measure of success?  Would you?

10. A pivotal moment for Dungy, understandably, was his son’s suicide.  Though he wrote a great deal about the support he received from the community and how he was able to process and recover from the death of his son to continue his life, he provides very few details surrounding his son’s death.  For example, there was no discussion of a suicide note or speculation on why he may have taken his own life.  When writing a memoir, does the author have an obligation to the readers to provide all factual details?  Do you feel shortchanged when an author omits facts that would satisfy your curiosity, for lack of a better word?  For the purposes of Dungy’s memoir, did it matter why Jamie took his own life?

My Two Cents:  This is a difficult one to answer.  As a reader, and perhaps as a parent, I desperately wanted to know why.  Though I understand what a terribly personal tragedy Jamie’s death was, I wanted to see the suicide note, or get an answer from a psychiatrist.  Maybe it was a need to make sense of such a tragic event, or maybe it was just curiosity.  Personally, I don’t believe that writing a memoir makes your life an “open book”—literally or figuratively.  Just with works of fiction, the author has creative license in deciding what to include in the story.  I hope that, in not focusing on the whys, that Dungy is telling us that he has comes to terms with those questions and believes he did all that he could for his son.   We are certainly not in any position to make that judgment for him.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for football literature.  If so, tune in next week to find out the next selection for “Reading Huddle”! 

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