Thankfully, many Americans can now take a much needed sigh of relief. The impending spike in national crime rates and Fall Sunday afternoons spent catching up on “honey-do’s” no longer plague the minds of men, ages 18 – 80, from New York to California. No, we can all just relax and rest assured that for the next several months we will be, once again, sunk into that old cratered spot on the couch, eyes glued to the television, with visions of touchdowns dancing through our heads. That’s right! The labor disputes have been settled and the much anticipated kickoff to the 2011-2012 NFL season is upon us. Wheeeww…for a second there I thought I’d actually have to rake some leaves this year.
In honor of the new season, I’d like to use a few lines to pay tribute to some of the NFL’s brightest yet youngest leaders of men. The seasoned veteran coaches of grid iron lore, the likes of Shanahan (59) and Coughlin (65), seem to be on the decline of late. Taking today’s headlines are some new coaches on the block and their styles are of another brand than that of their older more salty counterparts. Two coaches in particular come to mind, both under forty and already very successful in their own right. Mike Tomlin, the 39 year old coach of the Pittsburg Steelers boasts two AFC Championships and is the youngest coach ever with a Super Bowl Victory. Raheem Morris of the Tampa Buccaneers at age 35 became the youngest head coach in the NFL since 1970 to lead a team with at least 10 rookie starters to a winning record. No small feat considering it was just his second year as a head coach. In a league where most head coaches range from 47-59 years of age, what is it that has allowed two of the youngest in history to find success so quickly? Of Morris, defensive tackle Ryan Sims says, “The number one thing about Raheem is that he’s one of us, you can talk to him about your wife, your kids, the club and not just football. Some coaches can only talk about work. Raheem isn’t made that way.” It seems that the ability to relate has become much more vital for coaches. This is magnified as the generational gap widens between players and the coaches that have been around for years. Bucs veteran corner Ronde Barber explains, “Being an old-school coach doesn’t resonate with players anymore.” The consensus is that this younger crop of coaching talent is bringing a much needed energy boost and understanding to teams composed mostly of young men in their twenties.
What strikes me is not only the fact that these coaches are racking up victories, but they are also teaching their players how to be men, as defined by character and owning up to personal responsibility. Mike Tomlin, who has been known to drop a Robert Frost quote or two in press conferences, leads his Steeler’s with one constant mantra, “More grounded, more humble, more selfless makes us more opportunistic.” It appears that with the success of this new breed of coach, the landscape of even the sometimes dogmatic NFL is changing; as a new graduate to student in sport and performance psychology I find this encouraging and inspiring. Steeler’s tackle Chris Hoke kids with reporters about his coach saying, “The man has options, if he were not a football coach, he’d be a shrink.”
by: Michael Mosley
Bautista, Judy (January 25, 2009). Secret to Steelers Coach Tomlin’s Success: Take Notes, The New York Times, Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/26/sports/football/26tomlin.html
Bell, Jarrett (January 31, 2009). Inside Tomlin’s style: Humility, words matter for Steelers coach, USA Today, Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2009-01-29-tomlin-cover_N.htm
Chadiha, Jeffri (September 16, 2009). Youth might dictate new hiring model, ESPN.com Retrieved from: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=chadiha_jeffri&page=hotread1/youngcoaches