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Tony Dungy: Dads Play Critical Role In Child's Education

Oct 3, 2016

These days, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy works as an analyst for "NBC Sports' Football Night in America." But he's also the founder of "All Pro Dad," an organization committed to bringing "intentional focus" to fathers. 

The Pro Football Hall of Famer was at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg recently to talk about the importance of fatherhood and male role models during "Dads Take Your Child to School Day." Education is a key component of Dungy's advocacy.  It began in earnest in 2006, when the coach went to the White House and had a conversation with President George W. Bush about education. 

"That was one of the highlights of my life," said Dungy. "But I was involved a little bit early on because both my parents were teachers and they stressed how important education was. My wife was a sixth-grade teacher when we met, so education was important to her. And then in my 30 years in coaching we really felt like we were educators and we were teaching as well."

Dungy went on to serve on President Bush's counsel for service and civic participation.

"It let me know where we were in terms of our country and educational process and how many kids in that decade were not finishing high school," he said. "That was alarming to me. And that encouraged me to get out and talk to our students a little bit in Indianapolis where I was living at the time."

Dungy's "All Pro Dad" organization stresses that fathers and male mentor should take an active role in education.

"You know I think dads have the ability -- especially with boys -- to talk about how to think," he said. "We had a question (in a conversation) at Gibb's High School on racism and how we thought racism might affect the test scores and discipline in school and I didn't really ask that question.

"But I took it to the same thing my dad told me; things are going to happen that are beyond your control. You can't worry about those. You can only worry about the things that you can control. So I can't control what someone else thinks about other people's race. But I can control my preparedness, I can control my qualifications, I can control my attitude towards racism and that's what we have to do."

Dungy said his own father was instrumental in getting him to read more.

"I didn't particularly like to read but I liked sports," said Dungy. "So my dad would get the sports page and say 'read this about the Detroit Tigers. Tell me about the game last night and what happened.' And I'd read the story and then he would quiz me on what happened in the game. Then he bought me a subscription to "Sports Illustrated," so I'd get a magazine every week and he knew I would jump in and read it from cover to cover."

As the father of 10 children, seven of them adopted, Dungy says time management is his biggest challenge as a parent.

"Especially when I was coaching and putting in a lot of hours away from the house," he said. "How can you make sure you have enough time for each one of those kids? For me, especially with the boys, it involved bringing them to work a lot and I still take some of my boys to work at NBC. And that's what I learned more than anything; that it wasn't taking special trips and it wasn't doing big things. It was just letting them know that I was interested in their lives and spending that time with them. Your presence makes a big difference."