Monday, January 29, 2007

faith and football

The following is an excerpt from the "In the Lead" column which appears in the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal. The subject of the column are two NFL head coaches: Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, and Tony Dungy of the the Indianapolis Colts.


Two Football Coaches
Have a Lot to Teach
Screaming Managers

January 29, 2007; Page B1

The Super Bowl should be required viewing for managers who think screaming at employees is the best way to motivate them -- or simply their prerogative as bosses.

They won't see that kind of behavior Sunday, as the Indianapolis Colts play the Chicago Bears for football's highest trophy. The Colts' head coach, Tony Dungy, and the Bears' Lovie Smith don't curse or sarcastically chew out players, which makes them stand out in the National Football League's scream-and-holler culture.

The two men -- the first African-Americans to lead Super Bowl teams -- became close friends when Mr. Dungy, formerly head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hired Mr. Smith as an assistant. Both believe they can get their teams to compete more fiercely and score more touchdowns by giving directives calmly and treating players with respect.

This doesn't mean they aren't demanding or don't push hard. Mr. Dungy has a grading system that counts players' "loafs." If someone isn't running at full speed, or eases up or fails to hit an opponent when he could have, those are loafs, and it's hard to get through a game without getting at least one.

When Mr. Smith, who uses the same system, became the Bears' head coach three years ago, he told players to lift more weights and eat better because he wanted a slimmer, faster team. When he gets mad, he stares straight ahead in silence. His players call it "the Lovie Look" and say it's more frightening -- and more of a warning to play better -- than a torrent of angry words.


For some managers and athletic coaches, screaming is a way to show they are in charge -- and behavior that may be expected by their bosses. The Colts' Mr. Dungy says he didn't get some jobs earlier in his career because he was considered too laid-back and polite and didn't believe being a great coach required him to sacrifice his family or faith.

On one interview, when an owner asked if he would make the team the most important thing in his life, he said no. "I figured I probably wouldn't get that job, and I didn't," he said at a press conference last week. "I think your faith is more important than your job, family is more important than your job. We all know that's the way it should be, but we're kind of afraid to say that sometimes."

Lovie Smith and he "aren't afraid to say it," and both run their teams in the same way, Mr. Dungy said. The Colts and Bears play "tough, disciplined football even though there's not a lot of profanity from the coaches, there's none of the win-at-all-costs atmosphere. I think for two guys to show you can win that way is important for the country to see."

<>< TM

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