QUIET STRENGTH: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life
Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker
Tyndale House Publishers
Author Interview –– December 2007
Although it’s easy to gloss over Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s QUIET STRENGTH memoir as just another sports-filled tell-all, readers who spend more than a few pages with the book will be delighted that it is much more. Not just a football book --- and more than an autobiography --- Dungy’s basic faith-based principles will serve anyone from a homemaker to a businessperson well.
Football lovers, don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of pigskin particulars to satisfy hardcore fans and enough play-by-play details to discuss over morning coffee. Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, details the games he has won and lost, trades, hirings and firings (himself and his players), locker room pep talks, and the ins and outs of the football world.
Biography buffs will appreciate the (mostly) birth to Super Bowl chronological order that lends context to the rest of the narrative and helps readers understand where Dungy is coming from. It’s not an earthshaking backstory, but it is told well. Dungy grew up in Jackson, Michigan, just an hour outside of Detroit, to highly-educated parents (Dungy has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota). He recounts how his hot temper got him in trouble in high school sports (Dungy was quick to take offense at any implications of racial prejudice) and how his parents helped him develop his character. There is the obligatory recounting of menial jobs worked throughout college (a meat-packing plant shift helped him value his college education and football scholarship) and an overview of his college and professional career. He later details his sweet romance with future wife Lauren Harris, and their family life and adoption of several children. This biographical information is nicely balanced; there is just the right amount of detail without becoming banal.
What may surprise you is the amount of humor woven throughout. Dungy is genuinely funny, which comes across naturally in his narrative. This is not to say that the book is lightweight. Dungy includes some of the disappointing moments in his career and the tragedy of his son’s suicide before Christmas 2005.
The core of Dungy’s book --- his principles for football and for living --- isn’t anything new, but it is solid and bears repeating. No excuses, no explanations. Respond to adversity; don’t react. Be on time. Take ownership. And perhaps, most importantly: Do what you’re supposed to do whenever you’re supposed to do it. Not almost. All the way. Not most of the time. All of the time. Integrated throughout are lessons Dungy has learned from other coaches, mentors and teachers along the way who have shaped how he acts both on and off the field.
As he unpacks his personal story, Dungy peppers his narrative with philosophical questions that provoke the reader into thinking about his or her life more deeply. “What will people remember us for? Are other people’s lives better because we lived? Did we make a difference? Did we use to the fullest the gifts and abilities God gave us? Did we give our best effort, and did we do it for the right reasons?” Good questions for reflection.
What also comes through is this: Dungy is a very private person. Although he easily shares about his faith --- and is careful to include talk about some of his feelings --- there is a point where the emotion stops. He has obviously drawn some tight boundaries about how much of his feelings he is willing to share. Some readers will respect this, while others may wish for a little more here.
Although Dungy is quick to acknowledge how important football --- and winning the Super Bowl --- is in his life, he also hammers home the point that “God’s definition of success is really one of significance --- the significant difference our lives can make in the lives of others. This significance doesn’t show up in win-loss records, long resumes, or the trophies gathering dust on our mantels. It’s found in the hearts and lives of those we’ve come across who are in some way better because of the way we lived.”
Words worth pondering, both on and off the field.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at email@example.com.
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