Good news, football fans: Tony Dungy is coaching again.
Well, sort of.
The former Colts and Buccaneers head coach, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, is playing the role of coach in a new series of children’s books he has written with his wife, Lauren Dungy. The fictional series, which goes on sale this week with the release of two books, is aimed at encouraging reading among school-aged children.
“We’re just trying to help young people read, and especially boys,” said Dungy, now an NFL commentator for NBC. “I spent most of my [coaching] career with 21-30-year-olds, but also doing a lot with teenagers and young athletes interested in the NFL. Lauren had been an elementary school teacher, and it got me where I realized the importance of reading.”
Dungy has been passionate about helping young people throughout his life, and the book project is another way of giving back to give others a chance.
“We’ve written some children’s books in the past, when Tony was coaching with the Bucs, and the players and coaches’ wives would go to local schools and read to the students,” said Lauren Dungy, an early education specialist and former teacher. “But we started finding it was a struggle to find books with life lessons that were fun and engaging.”
The Dungys also wanted to include a more diverse group of characters to appeal to a wider range of students.
“It was tough to read books with all white characters and that backdrop and read them [to students] in diverse schools,” Tony Dungy said.
Dungy is back on the sidelines as a coach in the first two books – “Austin Plays Fair” and “Maria Finds Courage.” Tony and Lauren also have solicited input from their own children to appeal to young readers. Lauren also is a coach in the books.
“We wanted to talk about issues that kids have faced, and most of that has come from our kids,” Tony said. “Bullying, being honest, making friends, kids moving around. It’s just trying to help young people read, and it’s especially important for boys. We get so many boys who enjoy sports who don’t pick up on the academic side. We wanted to have something to encourage all young people to read and seeing life lessons that they can work through.”
The couple will read from their books on Thursday at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in Manhattan. Children attending the event also will get a tour of NFL Experience Times Square.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with a great platform with life lessons about the kids,” Lauren said. “We felt having a sports team with character, a lot of diversity was a good way to get kids together. We think the characters are relatable.”
Any chance Tony Dungy gets back to coaching in the NFL?
“This is my only stab at it, coaching the fantasy flag football team,” Dungy said. “That will probably be as close as I get to coaching again.”