Football is dominating the news these days and needless to say, it’s not all good.
I won’t subject you to ghastly security cam footage or reactionary league backpedaling or any of a number of articles on pending player safety litigation or incidents of conduct unbecoming. If you are a fan of the sport, like myself, or any sport for that matter, than you know that the narcissistic, “above the law,” mentality and the brutal, often over-adhered-to “win at all costs,” mantra is in fact costing the game, it’s participants and it’s fan base, a great deal.
As dads, one of our fundamental tasks is laying a solid foundation in the hearts and minds of our kids, upon which they can grow and thrive and flourish, compassionately. Lately I can’t help wondering if the malady we are witnessing in professional sports can be directly attributed to the faulty foundations some coaches may be building at an early age.
Which is why I was more than pleased to be invited to attend the Dove Men+Care “Care Always Wins” football and sportsmanship clinic down on The Farm this past weekend, prior to the big USC vs. Stanford game. The clinic was coached by none other than Hall Of Famer and Super Bowl XX Champion Chicago Bear, Kevin Butler, whose general demeanor and obvious long-term concern for the kids was a late-game field goal for the win, in my book.
With the help of Stanford University head football coach David Shaw, Dove Men+Care deodorant has created a Caring Coach of The Year award and online contest. On their website players and athletes can nominate football coaches that work with kindergarten through high school-aged players.
I spent the morning watching Kevin and the other clinic coaches exemplify the five cornerstones of caring coaching: Passion, Character, Determination, Respect and Encouragement, none of which was lost on the boys and girls in attendance who dug into football drills and huddled up for nuggets of wisdom from the esteemed staff.
When afforded the opportunity to interview Kevin Butler, I asked fellow dad blogger, City Dads Group organizer (for Philly Dads Group), and die-hard Bears fan Chris Bernholdt if he’d like to sub in for me for kicks, (puns intended.) I was elated when he eagerly agreed.
(Disclaimer: I was given complimentary tickets and food and beverage cards to attend the game. I was not asked to reciprocate in any way.)
From Chris and Kevin:
If you grew up in Chicago in the 80s like I did, the 1985 Chicago Bears are a part of your DNA. I come from a lineage of Bears fans who yell at the TV when something goes wrong, my second vinyl album ever was The Superbowl Shuffle, and V-neck sweaters in blue and orange were expected attire. The first three words I tried to teach my son when he started talking were Sweetness, Bears, and Ditka. I, like many of my fellow Chicagoans are living, breathing Superfans when it comes to our football team. So, it comes as no surprise that when Dada Mike asked me if I would be interested in interviewing Kevin Butler, the kicker of the 85 team, I got pumped like Mike Singletary on game day. Kevin is part of Dove Men + Care’s program called Care Always Wins which stresses the importance of caring relationships between players and coaches and sportsmanship above winning. Since the 1985 team was so dominant and had superior coaching, I was curious to see how his experience in the NFL transferred to his son and other kids he is teaching in this program.
According to Kidshealth.com, 90 percent of children in the U.S. say that a coach should care about more about players than simply winning a game. In your experience with a coach like Mike Ditka, how did being on a team with his personality motivate the players on that team?
Kevin Butler: I believe most teams are a direct reflection of their head coach. Head coaches are there to create a drive in respect of the game and the success of the team. Coach Ditka was a great motivator on and off the field. He made sure the players knew that playing in the NFL was a privilege and should be treated that way. Coach Ditka only asked the players to do the things he did when he was a player. The respect he showed the game and his players was the same respect he demanded from his players towards the game and themselves on and off the field.
As your son became involved in football how important did it become to you, that your child had a positive role model who exemplified sportsmanship over winning? Who was that coach to you?
Kevin Butler: As my son got involved in football the first thing that I wanted him to understand was that sportsmanship, above all, was the most important character. I wanted him to know that football is full of ups and downs and he need to be confident in his ability and the outcome, no matter what that outcome was. Understanding that things cannot always go the way you want is very important as football throws you curves all the time.
My father was my first coach and he taught me life lessons and that I wanted to teach Drew when he first began his football career.
How important is a program like Care Always Wins to the game of football now? With so many negative stories surrounding athletes these days, do you think that this initiative will have an impact on future players? Do you think that the stereotypical hard nosed coach like Bear Bryant is a thing of the past?
Kevin Butler: I think programs like the Dove Men+Care Deodorant ‘Care Always Wins’ campaign truly capture the importance of coaching in the sports world today. The program honors coaches who foster a caring environment and is putting them at the forefront – showcasing that a coach’s care has the power to ease irritations and frustrations that arise in sports. In fact, their antiperspirant products provide care to help end everyday underarm irritation, so coaches and players can stay focused on bringing their best to the game. I think a program like this could most definitely have an impact on future players. It is critical for every coach to understand their players and recognize what it takes to help them grow both on and off the field – while eliminating irritations!
Bear Bryant, Coach Ditka and other coaches from their era are coaches from the past. I believe with our youth today coaches are always challenged with adapting to the personality and lifestyles that have changed greatly. Our youth are motivated in different ways and the best coaches adapt to those changes. Bear Bryant certainly would be a coach who could and did adapt to those changes, even in his era.
The 85 team in Chicago is revered as the greatest team to ever play football. What were the main reasons why the 85 Bears were able to be so dominant?
Kevin Butler: The domination of the 85 Chicago Bears was due to the tremendous drive from each individual on the team, combined with our team goal of settling for nothing less than a championship. The different individuals on the team, along with the coaches, shared that common goal and did not let anything deter them from reaching that. That is the strongest character that any football team can have and every championship team holds.
I asked my dad, who is also a die hard Bears fan what he would ask you if given a chance. He wants to know how much credit should go to Coach Ditka for making that team so successful?
Kevin Butler: I believe Coach Ditka, along with coach buddy Ryan, deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the success of the Chicago Bears during the 80s. The focus that Coach Ditka brought to the team and keeping us all on the same course was the underlying factor to our success.
You are the Bears all time leading scorer with 1,116 points. Do you think anyone will ever catch you? If you could pick a Bear who has a chance to surpass you who would it be and why?
Kevin Butler: I know that Robbie Gould will break my record this year as the placekicker for the Chicago Bears. Robbie has been consistent and one of the best placekickers in NFL history and with his longevity, he will surpass my record this year.
In all your time as a kicker, you never had anyone return one of your kickoffs for a touchdown. How did you manage to do that and was that a product of the era that you played in or your mad kicking skills?
Kevin Butler: One of my records that will never be broke as a Chicago Bear is not allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. The only way I manage that was being a little bit crazy and have always played football so I understood tackling and not letting my teammates down. Plus, the players were a little slower back then.
You’ve won a Super Bowl and had an exceptional career in Chicago. What has been your greatest accomplishment in life as a dad?
Kevin Butler: I have had many successes in football, but my greatest success in life is being a husband and a father to three beautiful successful children and supporting them and giving them the opportunity to succeed in reaching their personal goals.
When are you coming to Pennsylvania so I can get a chance to wear that ’85 ring?
Kevin Butler: My corporate headquarters are in Pennsylvania, so I’ll let you know. You can always put the 85 ring on.
Thanks again to Kevin Butler for answering my questions and to Mike Heenan and Dove Men + Care for making it possible. I look forward to wearing that 1985 Superbowl Ring!