The question I ask in the title of this post is very important because the mentors you choose should be life changing, and their influence should be transcendent. In the same way, you should be having a positive influence on those who you are mentoring. Remember, the people you surround yourself with are either impacting you in a positive or negative way; and you can either impact people in a positive or negative way. In The Jersey Effect, Coach Dungy tells us about his four pillars of growth, which we outlined earlier. In another post entitled, “What Is Your Life’s Work,” we learned from Coach Dungy’s contributions to The Jersey Effect that “the company we keep shapes who we will become.”
Later in Coach Dungy’s chapter, he shares with us the problem of high school football — really, any sport nowadays. And he explains this problem in the context of how his NFL coach’s influence resonates with him, even 30 years later. Here’s what Coach Dungy said:
Thirty-five years later, Coach Noll is still influencing my life. That’s why I love him, respect him, and feel like I was so blessed to play for him. He was certainly interested in developing us as great players, and he wanted to win football games. But he was far more interested in developing us as people than developing us as players. So take my advice and develop yourself as a person first and as a player second.
I remember being in my thirties as an assistant coach and attending a coaches’ conference in Texas. This was a high school coaches’ conference, and there were eight thousand high school coaches there. After the meeting, I had coaches swamp me with questions about the “Cover 2 defense” and this play and that play. They were saying things like, “I don’t teach in my school; I only coach, and I have to win. If I don’t win games, I’m going to get fired.” The idea that winning the Friday night football game is the most important thing in our city is a fl aw in our value system. It’s great to run out on the field prepared to bring a victory to our team and our community, but it’s not the life-or-death situation our culture has made it out to be.
This is the reason we don’t have enough coaches like Chuck Noll around anymore—because we don’t reward the true value system as we should. Our culture rewards the coach who wins no matter what … not the coach who does things the right way. Be a player or coach who values your development as a person more than your performance as a player. Be a jersey effect athlete. And this was high school football, in Texas (of course), thirty years ago! This is an example of what our country has done with sports.
This point is so important. And it leaves us with some very important questions. Winning is important, but is it everything? What is a proper perspective on winning? How do we prioritize winning in the context of faith and family?
Let’s talk about it here. I invite your comments.