I am wondering, though, if coaching is limited to merely the on-field work they contribute to a team. Upper management, when examining the worth of a coach and doing their performance review, may reduce everything down to the lowest common denominator based strictly on stats. You know, if the team wins we keep the guy but if they lose we show him the door. I am not saying that stats aren’t important, nor am I saying that they don’t reflect much about the capabilities of the team’s leader, but is there more? What about the so-called ‘intangibles’ that a coach brings to the players on his team? In addition to such qualities as passion, integrity, and honesty, what about the spiritual side of things? Could that be an asset that money (ie. contracts) can’t buy?
To illustrate what I’m saying here let me call to your remembrance the story of Michael Vick. Vick was a highly touted quarterback out of Virginia Tech, a perennial Top 25 Division 1 college football team. He placed 3rd in Heisman balloting and was drafted first overall in the 2001 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Vick enjoyed 6 seasons with the Falcons but in April of 2007 the wheels came off this superstar’s bus. He was caught in an illegal dog fighting ring and in August of that year was sentenced to 21 months in prison, along with an additional 2 months of house arrest. Gone were the adoring fans, the thrill of playing in front of packed stadiums, and the fame and fortune of professional football. Michael Vick had hit rock bottom.
Roll the tape forward, though, to 2009, and you will find an incredible turn of events for the former West Virginia standout. The time behind bars helped Vick reassess the priorities in his life. He got picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles and was immediately thrust back into the forefront of the media’s attention. This ‘experiment’ would determine if Michael Vick could handle the pressure and prove to a suspicious public if a change had truly taken place in his life. His playing time was limited that season but in the 2010/2011 season he became the Eagles’ primary quarterback. Anyone following Vick could see that a definite change had taken place. There was a key person invloved in that turnaround, a “life coach” who made a significant investment into Vick’s life. That man was former Indianapolis Colts’ head coach, Tony Dungy. This man knows adversity. Not only did he become the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, he also lived through the tragic death of a son. A deeply committed Christian man, Dungy came alongside Michael Vick when others had given up on him. He didn’t have Vick run the tires, hit the tackling sled, or throw passes. Instead he encouraged him to pray, attend church and look up Bible verses. He dealt gently with the wounded Vick and helped nurse his soul back to health.
In the Winter 2011 edition of Sports Spectrum magazine Vick is quoted as saying this: “I’m thankful for so many things in my life right now. I think most importantly I’m thankful that I’ve got my relationship back on track with God. It went south for a minute, and it was all my fault. He (God) just had to bring me back to reality.” Athletes get their game back on track through the careful tutelage of a coach. People get their lives back on track with God through the careful tutelage of a coach, too, a life coach. Tony Dungy is one of those people. He was renowned for his coaching ability on the playing field, and now he is scoring points with the ones the Lord has given him who need life skills.
Coaches who want to develop players to their fullest potential will need more than a clipboard and a whistle. In my opinion, by tapping into the spiritual aspects of a player’s life a more well-rounded athlete emeges from the rigours of training. Just ask Michael Vick!