The NFL season kicked off its second half this weekend which culminates with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
As teams try to find a balance between continuing a successful season this year with a successful future, Daddyhood had a chance to sit down with former Buccaneer and Colts head coach and Super Bowl XLI winner Tony Dungy.
With Tony Dungy we discussed how he has balanced the demands of the 24-hour job that is parenthood with the equally demanding rigors of being a professional football player, coach and analyst and the resources that he has created to assist dads nationwide.
Tony Dungy has been around the NFL since 1976. After having a successful playing career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Chuck Noll asked Dungy to return to the team as a defensive backs coach in 1981. He later became the defensive coordinator, a job he held until 1989 before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings.
In 1996, he was hired as the first African American head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After six seasons in Tampa, Dungy was fired in 2001 and was later named the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
With future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning leading the team, Dungy and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI in 2006, becoming the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
In 2009, Dungy retired from coaching to spend more time with his family. He works as a broadcaster for Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Dungy is also the co-founder of All Pro Dad, a fatherhood organization that assists dads in becoming better father figures and husbands. As a father of nine with his wife Lauren, Dungy is constantly aware of the pressures that accompany fathers’ busy schedules and the attempt of the modern dad to balance professional life and home life.
Daddyhood: How do you balance the quality of time you spend with each of your nine children?
Tony Dungy: It’s hard to do and you can’t expect to balance it because they don’t all need the same amount of time at every stage of development. Giving them what they need when they need it and the quality of time in which you give is most important. I continue to rely on my faith to guide me in the direction I need to go.
DH: As a football coach and now as an analyst your job demands a lot of time. How do you find the right time to put work aside to spend time with your family?
TD: Those daily routines were the toughest for me and it still is. When I was a coach we had vacation time and I was very good at saying ‘Vacation time is family time so when we are off in the summer I’m going to spend a lot of time with the kids.’ But when you are working and getting ready for playoff games, it’s hard to take the afternoon or evening and try and do something with the kids.
For me, Friday was always the day in our schedule that we ended practice early, told everyone to get out of the building and I would do something special with my kids and my wife after practice and try and do something they would enjoy. That even carried into the Super Bowl. We were out at the NFL experience and people were amazed that the coach of Indianapolis Colts was out there the Friday night before the Super Bowl, but that was our routine, Fridays were our time.
DH: As a head coach for 13 seasons you’ve had quite a few players look to you to play a fatherly role. How do you manage your relationships with your former players?
TD: You always want that. You tell players ‘I have an open door policy if you ever need to talk about things, I’m available. Keep me posted.’ Some guys you’re obviously going to be closer to than others, but trying to be there for everybody was important to me. I didn’t want to be that person where guys said ‘He helped me be a better football player but that was it.’ I obviously wanted them to be the best they can be on the field but I wanted them to develop off the field too and I considered that another part of my job. So you do take on more people and feel like you have 53 kids at times but I thought that went with the territory.
DH: You co-founded All Pro Dad with Mark Merril, an organization designed to inspire fathers and father figures to be the best dads they can be. How did that begin?
TD: I got the Bucs job in 1996 and one of the guys on our staff was named Clyde Christensen. We’d been friends a long time and we had young kids and used to walk after practice and talk about how practice went and how the team was but in the course of those walks we’d always get to our families. We always talked about how we weren’t doing a good enough job and spending enough times with our kids as our dads had. My mom and dad were all over the city attending everything and we have so much more at our disposal but still can’t make it to everything. What’s going on? What are we doing wrong?
Clyde had met Mark and said he might be able to help us out. So we went originally to get some tips for ourselves but in the course of the conversation realized a lot of people were going through that and we thought how can we use the popularity of football and the Buccaneers to help get the message out about how as men, we can do a better job with our family. We decided to have a day at training camp, we’d invite people out, men especially, and we’d ask them to bring their kids and watch practice. We thought we’d get 100-150 people and ended up with several thousand people that day. We thought we might be on to something combining men’s interest in football and delivering this powerful message.
DH: What have you learned from your involvement with All Pro Dad that has helped you to become a better father?
TD: I’ve learned that all men struggle with how to best manage our time. How we can take the limited amount of time we have and maximize it. It’s everybody’s problem. The biggest thing I’ve learned is it’s not the big things. It’s not ‘I have to save and take my kids on vacation or to Disney world,’ but going outside for 15 minutes before dinner to play catch or helping them with their homework. Those are the things they remember. When I think back about my dad and the times I spent going with him to his science class and looking through his microscopes or going out and changing a flat tire with him or having him show me how something worked, those are the things years later, I remember.
DH: Is there one thing that you did with your dad that you really want to do with your kids?
TD: I think my dad did a good job of finding what each of the four of us kids were interested in and helping us develop in that area. I was an athlete. I loved how he played catch with me, bought me footballs, basketballs and things like that. My sister’s a doctor and he would take her to his lab. Whatever he found that interested us, he encouraged us to go that way. So that for me has been what I’ve tried to do. Figure out what my kids like, what makes them tick and encourage them in that regard.
DH: Who have been your mentors when it comes to being a parent?
TD: Growing up watching my dad was big for me. And going to work for Coach [Chuck] Noll and seeing how successful he was but how dedicated he was to his family and realizing that you could balance both was also huge. When my wife and I first got married, we had several couples at the local church that we attended who did a great job raising their kids in a Godly way and they were just tremendous role models for us. A couple of my teammates, John Stallworth and Donny Shell also stuck with me. They were three years ahead of me and they were already established in their careers and married and I got to watch them be Pro Bowl players on the field but see how their careers were placed well below their family in the pecking order and those were great things for me to see as I was a young person just starting my family.
DH: How do you discuss faith and religion with your children?
TD: We’ve really been intentional about explaining our thoughts on what being a Christian is all about. Not just the stereotypes but to show them what God is in our life and how we are representing Him. We’ve always talked about it with them but you also have to live it. They have to see what we are doing which reinforces the message. Just making sure we are the correct role models like our parents were for us.
DH: Do you worry about your children playing professional football?
TD: I worry just like any parent and I want him to stay healthy. But I know that he loves the game just like I do and I never thought about getting hurt and I don’t think he thinks about it either. You knew you were going to get hurt but that was just a part of the game. Football is a game I love, and he’s been around it and he’s inherited the passion and knows the dangers and the risks, but there’s risks in all aspects of life and I just pray that he stays healthy and continues to enjoy it.
DH: What’s one underlying message that you have for fathers looking for advice on parenting?
TD: The job of being a dad is important and it’s more about time and attitude than it is about resources. We always think ‘If I had a little more money I could do this, if I had this to give them it’d be better’ and that’s not what they need. It’s the attitude of ‘Hey my dad thinks I am important and he shows me I’m important.’ If you do that you’re going to be a successful dad.
DH: Being a role model for your children extends to relationship you have with your spouse. How important is it to have a relationship with your wife, not only as a parent but as a couple?
TD: That’s where it starts. It’s not to say you can’t have a relationship with your kids if you are divorced or single but to show them that you and your spouse are a cohesive unit and we love you together and we love each other is important for them to see. Seeing what a husband and wife relationship is all about and allows them to know what they should look for when they grow to that time of their life.
DH: The father’s role is constantly evolving. How important is it to always be looking for ways to better yourself as a father and for outside influences to recognize the importance of fatherhood?
TD: We have a misconception in America that the dad is the breadwinner and the mom is the nurturer and that’s so far from the truth. Dads have to understand that their role in nurturing their children are just as important as mom’s. We talk about father figures all the time, but a family unit is a biblical principle and we can’t discount the role of the dad at all.