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What Can a Football Fable Teach About Success?

The Super Bowl is a great goal, and I have no doubt you guys can get there, but in all my years in the league, I’ve found the most consistently successful teams are driven by something even bigger than that.

By Tony Dungy, author of The Soul of a Team 

By the time Gym and I arrived in the personnel meeting room, Terry and Joe were already there, along with AustinQuarles, Wesley Robinson, and Louis Blackstock.

Interesting group, I thought. Actually, it made a lot of sense. As the starting quarterback and team captain, Austin was a natural leader who automatically commanded a great deal of respect. And Louis was a linebacker, widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in the NFC and the closest thing the Vipers had to a defensive star. The guy was a monster on the field, and DC absolutely loved him. “He plays hurt, never quits, totally fires up the defense, and does everything we ask of him,” he had told me during minicamp.

As soon as I walked in the door, both Austin and Louis came over and shook my hand. “Coach,” they both said by way of greeting.

As for the rookie . . .

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Wesley said, waiting for Austin and Louis to step back before approaching me and extending his hand.

Louis raised his eyebrows. “Hey, the kid can speak!”

Everyone laughed. In the short time he’d been with the team, Wesley had been almost as quiet as Louis was loud. Compared to the fiery and loquacious Louis, Wesley may as well have taken a vow of silence around the facility. He kept his head down and did his job.

“Nice to meet you, too, son. And please, call me Coach,” I said, smiling. “Sir makes me nervous.”

“Yes, sir,” he laughed, then apologized. “I’m not sure why I’m here,” he added, glancing back at Austin and Louis, “but I’m happy to help however I can.”

“That’s exactly why you’re here,” Joe said, inviting the three players to take a seat at the table. I followed suit.

“You pay attention and you do what we ask, both in the weight room and on the practice field. That’s exactly what we need to make this work—leaders,” he said emphatically, adding, “and not all leaders have to speak.”

“Make what work, Coach?” Austin asked.

“You guys know how we’ve been talking about becoming a team with SOUL this season, right?” All three nodded in response.

“Well, there’s one piece we haven’t quite landed on yet, and I think—we think—” Joe gestured toward Gym, Terry, and me— “that you guys might be able to help us with that.”

“Is it the selflessness thing?” Louis asked. “’Cause I think most of the guys get that. They just might not always do it,” he said with a smile.

“And that’s the problem,” Joe said, turning to the whiteboard behind him and grabbing a dry-erase marker.

He continued to speak while starting to write on the board. “I agree, Louis— We can already do selflessness. Most of us, most of the time. Some of us, not so often. And we’re pretty good at owning our roles,” he added. “Again, most of the time.”

“Well, I think we’re pretty unified,” Austin spoke up. “I mean, we all get along well.” “True, when times are good. But—” Joe paused with just SOU written on the board— “what is it that unifies us? What drives us to succeed, especially when things get tough?”

Joe turned back around and sketched out the final letter.

“What is our L? And before you all say, ‘Super Bowl,’” he continued, “that’s not it.”

The guys exchanged confused glances. Joe turned to me.

“Tony, would you mind?”

“Not at all.” I got up and walked over to the whiteboard.

“First of all, Coach Webster is spot-on. The Super Bowl is a great goal, and I have no doubt you guys can get there, but in all my years in the league, I’ve found the most consistently successful teams are driven by something even bigger than that.”

“What’s bigger than the Super Bowl?” asked Wesley.

“Whoa, he spoke twice in one day!” Louis teased, bringing a flush of red to the rookie’s cheeks.

“The Super Bowl is what we want to achieve,” Joe interjected.

I picked up from there. “Right. But what we’re talking about is what gives meaning to what you do here; what defines who you are as individuals and as a team—regardless of whether you win the Super Bowl. Winning is important, yes. But how and why you win are equally—if not more— important.

Because without meaning, gentlemen, I can promise you—even your greatest victories will ring hollow.”


The Soul of a Team by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mentor Leader and Quiet Strength comes a book sure to transform your team or organization!

For most people, succeeding in life requires mastering the art of teamwork. Whether at work, school, church, or home, virtually everyone is part of a team—and when they work well, teams can accomplish more than individuals working by themselves.

But not all teams are created equal. When a team isn’t functioning well, individual strengths can be undermined and weaknesses accentuated, making the work environment a terrible place to be. So what does a truly effective team environment look like, and how can you create one within your own organization?

As a former Super Bowl–winning coach, Tony Dungy is an expert at building and bringing out the best in a team. Drawing on his experiences from years of coaching and working with other leaders, this football fable lays out four essential principles practiced by truly effective teams. Telling the story of a fictional NFL team looking for a turnaround, The Soul of a Team not only identifies some of the most common issues that hold a team back but also lays out a game plan for winning teamwork. Whether you aspire to be a better leader or a stronger team player, The Soul of a Team will show you how to contribute to a stronger, healthier, more productive team destined for success.

Learn More HERE>>

Abbi grew up in the Chicago suburbs and has not left. She works with the team to develop and post content and sales throughout the Tyndale website. She recently married her husband, Stanley, and they are raising their two "fur babies", Bagheera and Mushi. When she isn't at work, she enjoys spending time outdoors, hanging out with friends, and taking trips to new places.

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