Remembering Dean: Good Dads are Hard to Find


“Good dads these days are hard to find. Perhaps we’ve brought it on ourselves. Just watch any television show. Dads are spoofed, maligned, caricatured and generally disrespected.” – Dean Smith and Dads Article – Charlotte Observer, February 12, 2015 (see link below)

It’s true. And it’s not often recognized. The article quoted above details the impact that Dean Smith, former UNC Men’s Basketball Coach, had on the generations of players that he coached. The article was written by Marilyn Chadwick, the wife of a man who had previously played for Coach Smith. Although she never personally played for him, she experienced the ripple effect of his influence.

Chadwick points out that Dean is thought of as a second father to so many young men who have passed through his program. “Good dads are that reservoir of safety and unconditional love for which all kids hunger,” she states. Coach Smith certainly acted like a good dad to his players. He expected excellence both on and off the court. He set the bar incredibly high. But his players knew they were “family.” And they responded by achieving more than anyone thought possible. Young athletes gave their all for this man who cared more about his players’ success than his own, Chadwick added.

It is so easy for coaches to become father-figures to their players. They are in a position of pure influence and authority. But it isn’t always easy for them to exemplify these traits; values can easily be lost in a society that says fathers are “un-cool”.

There is no shortage of people in positions of authority today-nor will there ever be. But strong and principled leaders, impactful and transformational coaches, will always be in short supply. Coach Smith was in a position of authority just like many others coaches of his day- the difference is that his legacy is not only about wins and losses, but about the way he impacted the boys who played for him, turning them into men of principle and character.

As a coach, you may never be in as prominent a position as Dean Smith was, or become as famous as he became, but you will have the extraordinary privilege of influencing the lives of youth and young adult players who participate in sports programs. The importance of this type of work can’t be under-stated. Dennis Rainey, president of Family Life Today, said that “a society where the men “get it right,” is the foundation not only for a strong home, but ultimately even for a strong country.”

While our culture today may not always be sending the right message about leadership, influence, and fatherhood, Missionary Athletes International is seeking to contribute to the solution. At each one of its branches, across the United States, MAI is focusing its resources on training coaches who will be transformational and influential figures in their player’s lives. We believe that through a “season of training” these coaches can spend a lifetime serving youth and transforming lives by modeling the right kind of influence to their players– influence that chooses to use authority to teach young men and women what it means to follow Jesus.

If you would like to support the work of MAI or any of its missionaries


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