By BARBARA HAMILTON AND PEGGY WALL
Tony Dungy could speak for days about football, but he prefers to spend his days talking about being a dad. Recently 4,000 adults and young people gathered in Jackson to hear him speak about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the thousands of lives that have been impacted by its message. But what they didn’t hear was the passion and commitment for what he considers his number one job.
For Tony, sports has always played a major role in his life, and coaching took him all the way to the top of the football world and a Super Bowl ring, but the thing that means the most to him is family and fatherhood. Following the role model of his own dad, Tony has made fatherhood a top priority in his own life.
The role of the father in a family cannot be understated. “There’s no substitute for a full-time dad,” he emphasizes. “Dads who are fully engaged with their kids overwhelmingly tend to produce children who believe in themselves and live full lives.” Added to that, they are happier, better adjusted, and more secure within the family unit.
But that’s not always the case. Tony believes one of the greatest foes facing families today is the absence of a father in the home. Too many sons and daughters are growing up without the authority, stability, and nurture of a dad in the household. Someone once said that fatherless sons have a hole in their soul in the shape of a dad, and as hard as anyone tries, nobody can fill that hole in the same way a Christian dad can.
Consider this alarming fact: Over 24 million children in the United States live in fatherless households. From these homes come:
- 63% of all youth suicides
- 71% of all high school dropouts
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children
And these are only a few of the staggering statistics that reflect the unhealthy, long-range effects of fatherless homes.
So the message is clear: Dads, you are needed in your family. Tony Dungy persists, “Dads need to be available for their kids and be totally involved on many levels—physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.” In other words, they need to be there for their children. They need to teach their sons how to love their moms, how to accept responsibility, how to issue discipline with respect. Their daughters need to learn from them the proper relationship of a husband and wife—a mom and dad—and witness the role of authority and consistent living. Because Tony has both sons and daughters, he knows there has to be time for both.
What children observe in the home is what they will learn. What they learn is what they will do and will later transfer to their own relationships and families.
Tony Dungy, NFL coach, best-selling author, and popular sports analyst works closely with and lends his support to All Pro Dad, a charitable organization which seeks to help dads of all kinds become great dads which is not always easy. He describes it as “giving men the equipment they need to do their most important job.”
Every child is looking for a hero, and every dad can and should be that hero to his children. Kids need their dad to be their best advocate and offer support and encouragement, to help them find their purpose in life and realize their dreams, to let them know how important they are to him, and most important, to teach them about God and live out his faith before them.
Early in Tony’s career, Chuck Knoll, coach of the Pittsburg Steelers, told him, “Welcome to the NFL. Football is now your career, but it is not your life.” That advice stuck with Tony, and today he is quick to point out that coaching has always been a job—just a job. “Coaching was the role God had for me for 28 years, and it hasn’t stopped now. I want to continue being a coach for my kids and other kids who need to hear God’s Word. They need to know how much He loves and cares about them.” It takes courage to raise a child. “Courage like nothing else,” he says.
Tony sums up his role as a dad with these eloquent words: “But I wonder if we all need to do a better job of listening to that gentle whisper from a God who daily reminds us to enjoy the sacred moments with those we love—especially with our precious children. They are moments we will look back on with either regret or a smile. Either way, the memory will last forever.” Well said, Coach Dungy, well said.
For more information about being a great dad, go to www.allprodad.com.