QUIET STRENGTH by Tony Dungy – Tyndale House Publishers, 2007
Forward by Denzel Washington (301 pages).
It seems most Christian Sports books are full of fluff often focusing on athletic success or the powers of the athlete to overcome great odds to achieve success in some miraculous manner. Seldom do they focus on the daily challenges that all normal humans face. This often makes the successful athlete’s experience unrealistic and something to which the amateur athlete or non-athlete cannot personally relate. This is not the case with Tony Dungy’s autobiography, Quiet Strength. This book is different in that it connects the faith journey of Tony Dungy, the coach of the 2007 Super Bowl winning Indianapolis Colts, to the life experiences and challenges many of us encounter. This book is primarily about life and faith so the person who is looking for a pure sports book might be a bit disappointed. But there is plenty about football though covering Dungy’s college days as a quarterback and the lack of opportunity as a professional quarterback because of his race, his emergence as a coach, and exciting football moments in his coaching career. It is also insightful to see how Dungy is connected to many of the great coaches of all-time such as Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh, and current coaches such as Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards (two of Dungy’s closest friends). But the book is not primarily about sports.
This book’s main character is seemingly Coach Dungy, however the true central character is really Jesus Christ. Dungy clarifies how he was raised in a family of faith but that it was necessary for him to learn to trust Christ through the various trials he experienced in daily living. He describes in detail several specific challenges where he experienced the sovereign hand of God directing him, such as his college career, his professional teammates who were a testimony of faith to him, his failures as a professional athlete leading to the discovery of his profession, his failures and firings as a coach, his eventual meeting of his future wife, dealing with his son’s suicide, and his eventual winning of a Super Bowl.
Dungy’s most difficult experience was his son Jamie’s suicide. He does not sensationalize the situation, nor does he placate the voyeuristic desires of the readers who want to know the whys and hows of the suicide. Instead he elaborates on the support he found from Christian friends, his Church’s care, and on his own words at the funeral service including some stirring anecdotes about Jamie. Dungy concluded his remarks at the funeral with the following, “The last and most important thing I want to leave you with is this. Despite my having shed a few tears here, this is really a celebration in the midst of tragedy. When Jamie was five years old, he accepted Christ as his Savior. When Lauren and I would talk to him about his identity, about who he was and who he wanted to become, that was one thing we could tell him for sure, for certain—that his identity was in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that’s in Jesus Christ” (p. 255). The one constant through all these experiences is the theme that God is ultimately in control directing the events of life and that faith is the appropriate response to every situation.
Near the end of the book Dungy summarizes, “And so we press on. We press on with our memories, our hearts buoyed by a God who loves us and wants us to know him deeply. We press on with our sense that life’s not always fair. And we press on with the knowledge—and—assurance that even though we can’t see all of God’s plan, He is there, at work and in charge, loving us. We press on with the conviction that even though we don’t deserve the gifts and blessings we’ve been given, He gives them anyway. We press on with the conviction that even though we don’t deserve the gifts and blessings we’ve been given, He gives them anyway. We press on into an abundant life on earth, followed by an eternity with God” (p. 297). Dungy understands the appropriate roll of sports, something that all athletes and parents of blooming athletes should understand. He writes, “But football is just a game. It’s not family. It’s not a way of life. It doesn’t provide any sort of intrinsic meaning. It’s just football. It lasts for three hours, and when the game is over, it’s over” (p. xiv).
The book is chronologically structured, practical, and well-written. The central theme is the need to put one’s priorities in order and to consistently live out these priorities as a role model for others. Often Dungy pauses to raise great questions and usually provides his own answers. At one point pondering the issue of fame Dungy asks, “What will people remember us for? Are people’s lives better because we lived? Did we make a difference? Did we use to the fullest the gifts and abilities that God gave us? Did we give our best effort, and did we do it for the right reasons?” (p. 144). In response he states, “God’s definition of success is really one of significance—the significant difference our lives can make in the lives of others. This significance doesn’t show up in win-loss records, long resumes, or the trophies gathering on our mantels. It’s found in the hearts and lives of those we’ve come across who are in some way better because of the way we lived” (p. 144).
Reviewed by Mark Hamilton