Dare to Be Uncommon | Tony Dungy
When Tony Dungy stepped away from football in 2008, it wasn’t an end to his coaching career. Instead, you can think of it as a new beginning. In the decade since, Dungy’s community involvement and his ministry has expanded. The year after his retirement, he partnered with Tyndale House to write Uncommon, a book that brought his coaching techniques into practical application in everyday life. Dare to Be Uncommon spins off from that as a four-week video series that focuses on living a life of character, influence, substance, and purpose.
Session 1: Cultivating Uncommon Character
Coach Dungy beings by advocating for uncommon character. At the core of daring to be uncommon is standing out among the crowd with your integrity, humility, and stewardship. Nothing that Tony says is revolutionary, but with his ability to relate examples of his teaching playing out on the football field, it is rather compelling. Most notable is his thoughts on stewardship. How we use our time, money, and talents goes a long way in developing who we are.
This session is more of an introductory overview of the entire series. For those not familiar with Coach Dungy, it enables them to get to know who he is, what he has done, what his current ministry is, and where his passion for this topic comes from.
Session 2: The Power of Positive Influence
The second session really begins to get into the heart of Dungy’s message and shows his heart and his philosophy as a coach. Having spent ten years as a coach and six years as a pastor, this lesson was a reminder to myself the power of a person with influence and authority. Dungy highlights four areas of positive influence:
- By Speaking
- By Listening
- By Doing
- By Empowering
Those first two are especially important for those in authority. I have seen a number of leaders fail to be influential because their words toward those under them were not uplifting. I have seen even more leaders fail to listen to those under them. People want to know that they are heard. I would even say that to be loved is to be heard. When people know that they have been heard, they are more receptive to listening.
Of course, walking the walk is also very important. Good leaders lead. They don’t shout directions from the back of the room. They don’t ask people to do the opposite of what they themselves are doing. How a leader acts carries more influence than what they say. I think it’s especially poignant to hear this type of teaching come from a former football coach, coming from a world where the loudest, meanest, and toughest are those who survive.
Most important, though is his point about empowering. Leaders teach leadership. Leaders put others in leadership. Too often, the goal of a leader is to stay in leadership, which usually means that those “under” them must stay under them. Coach Dungy reminds us that true leadership is about giving others an opportunity to lead, about trying to raise up those “under” to a position at or above where you are.
Session 3: Reaching Your Full Potential
The third session focuses on reaching one’s full potential. This lesson is fairly generic, but Dungy’s football anecdotes keep it interesting. His five points are to stay focused, be positive, learn from failure, aim for substance over style, and set qualitative goals.
Of those things, the two that resonated most with me were the ideas of learning from failure and setting qualitative goals. The first is especially important since failure is inevitable. Particularly in the sports world, failure is almost a constant—a failed block, a failed drive, a failed game, a failed season. But these failures do not mean a failed life or failed career. Instead, failure should be the impetus to drive us forward. We learn from failure and learn how to move forward.
Setting qualitative goals is also very important. We don’t know if we are winning unless we have clear and direct goals set up to measure what we are doing. Quite often, without good goals, we miss out on our growth. Growth is usually so incremental that, when you’re involved in the day to day, you don’t always see the improvement. Good goals help us remember where we were and remind us of how far we’ve come.
Session 4: Living with Purpose
The final session is about living with purpose. Above all, Coach Dungy speaks about we should understand our platform and be conscientious in how we use it. It is very important to understand one’s position in football. Knowing your position leads to knowing the play, knowing which route to run. It is crucial to you fulfilling your assignment. This session is very much a locker room halftime speech exhortation to fight and good fight and not let the principles learned throughout the four week series go away just because the series is over.
Dare to Be Uncommon Study Guide
Unfortunately, the study guide for this series is little more than an abbreviated, annotated version of the full book. You would be better off purchasing the full book and going through the study that way. What I’ve noticed is that studies directed toward adults, especially men, seem to be less organized when it comes to developing study questions. I think this is really an oversight. The study guide is called Playbook for an Uncommon Life, but it really provides very little direction specifically for a small group study. There’s a big difference between reading a book and discussing a four-week video series and this guide fails to understand, or at least do anything, about that difference.
The presentation of the series is fairly generic and looks a bit dated (although this series did come out nearly ten years ago, which accounts for some of that). The setup is Tony Dungy standing in what is set up like a sports newscast. Dungy speaks to the camera with a reasonable stage presence, but there’s nothing much exciting about it. There’s also not a whole lot of biblical integration, be that in the Bible study or video. Part of this is purposeful, as the series was also intended for use for secular sports teams; but it’s difficult to have a good Bible study without good, in-depth use of the Bible.
The strength of this series is in Tony Dungy. There’s not much special about this series, either in content or presentation. If you’re from Indiana and are a Colts fan (I am!), you’ll probably enjoy this study and have great interaction with it. The primary issue is that since the strength of the series is Coach Dungy, it becomes less relevant in terms of its specialness the longer he is out of the sport. I recently went through a Tim Tebow led series called This is the Day with my high school group. After finishing, the boys asked if I had any other football-related studies. That’s why I looked into this one, but my love and memories of Coach Dungy’s time as the Colts coach didn’t translate to high schoolers a decade after his retirement.
In the end, that places this series in a pretty niche group that may work for a very specific group, but not something I would recommend for every group.