Coach Tony’s Corner: Lessons from Coach Dooley

Coach Tony’s Corner: Lessons from Coach Dooley

On Sunday, September 11th the NYO community was fortunate to host a “Living Legend” in Coach Vince Dooley, as part of our football program’s Opening Day Ceremony on Blackwell Field.

As I watched our own Charles Pledger introduce Coach Dooley, I thought to myself: “Our kids are lucky to have this special experience, and there is no better youth sport program in the country than Northside Youth Organization.”  Coach Dooley echoed my thoughts when he said there is no better program around than the one we have here in Chastain Park.  Coach then rattled off several names of NYO Alumni that later played at the University of Georgia including: Knox Culpepper, Buzzy Rosenberg, and Matt Robinson.

In his initial speech as well as in his question and answer session with our “little ones,” Coach Dooley’s message focused on character development, with his lessons centered on what I have always called the three “nonnegotiables” for any team: Have a great attitude, give your best effort, and be a great teammate.  It is no coincidence that Coach Dooley confirmed that the most larger-than-life legend to ever wear the “Red and Black” in Athens, Herschel Walker, always had a fabulous attitude, gave his best effort, and was the ultimate teammate.

Below is a piece I wrote about a year ago on the three “nonnegotiables.”:

Have a Great Attitude

When all members of a team step on the court or field for a practice or a game, they are expected to have a great attitude.  This starts with the coaches and the leaders on the team.  Coaches must lead by example and set the tone by leading with optimism.  As coaches, our communication with our players should be at least a 3:1 ”Positive to Negative” ratio.  If we walk into practice with a bad attitude because we have had a terrible day, then how can we expect the kids to be any different?  Bad attitudes will keep a team from reaching its potential.   

 Give Your Best Effort

In the words of William Faulkner: “Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries and predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  We expect the players on our team to always give their best effort.  If there is a day where any member of our team does not give his/her best, then address it and correct it.  We want the members of our team to achieve things that they don’t even think is possible.  A team can only “overachieve” when it gives its best effort.

 Be a Great Teammate

At the end of the day, life is about relationships.  Death is the ultimate equalizer in this life because no one can avoid it.  The truth is that when we pass, no one will care how many games we won as a player or as a coach, or how much money we earned during our career.  We are remembered because of the relationships we created and the legacy that we leave behind.  There is no excuse to be anything less than a great teammate.  We expect all members of our team to be kind, caring, and thoughtful of one another.  We expect the members of our team “to play FOR each other and not with each other.” All members of a team should be selfless and not selfish.  Being a great teammate should be the ultimate goal of any member of a team or organization.

I want to thank John Baker, Eric Olsen, Margaret Bryant, Connie Land, Billy Small, as well as every person involved in our Football and Cheer programs for putting this amazing ceremony together.  What separates our program from others is that we really do put an emphasis on teaching our kids life lessons that they will use later in life once their playing days are over.

See you around the park!

(Tony Watkins Serves as Executive Director at Northside Youth Organization)