"Fatherhood Comes First," Says Superbowl Coach


All fathers have to weigh their opportunities and priorities, and often the trickiest part is to live in a way that reflects those priorities.

Super Bowl XLIII-winning head coach Mike Tomlin wrote a commentary called "Fatherhood Comes First, Then the Game" in USA Today for the Friday before the big game.

Among the other refreshing comments about one of his top priorities in life—fatherhood—Tomlin describes the influence of his dedicated stepdad. His description is one many dads today would do well to imitate as they seek to navigate work and family priorities:

Leslie Copeland came into my life as my stepfather when I was 6 years old. He was a postal worker; I had a passion for sports. He took the overnight shift so he could coach my baseball team. I worked hard so he’d be pleased with me. Over time, I began to see that he was teaching me much more than how to throw a baseball or catch a pass. He was teaching me how to be a man. He was teaching me how to be a father.

Clearly, every father’s work and family situation is unique, and the culture plays a role in the opportunities available to these dads. Still, Mike Tomlin's stepdad, Leslie Copeland, took an important action: he made adjustments in his work schedule so he could be there when his stepson needed him. All of us dads have to weigh our opportunities and our priorities, and often the trickiest part is to live in a way that reflects those priorities.

What are you working for? A certain level of income? Attaining status or material possessions? Or are you working to provide for your family’s needs, to give your children opportunities to learn and grow, and to allow your family to spend quality time together? Even in trying economic times, you can still make a choice toward family and find a way to make it work. It will require sacrificing some things in favor of others; every choice you make eliminates other possibilities. But few dads who have placed their family as a high priority have ever regretted it. More often, those decisions end up paying huge dividends in their children’s lives, as it did for Mike Tomlin’s stepdad.

Action Points:

  • Go to work with a renewed sense of purpose regarding why you’re there—to provide for your family and fulfill part of your role as a husband and father.
  • Set aside some time to honor your spouse and celebrate your relationship. (This is a great opportunity to model for your kids.)
  • Commit yourself to be there with your children at a key point during the day—dinnertime, bedtime, breakfast, etc. Put it on your calendar.
  • If you’re currently between jobs, maintain your poise and a positive attitude. Remember that you’re still modeling for your children, and even if you’re wondering about your purpose in life, your kids still need you. (They are a key part of your purpose.)
  • Maybe instead of giving up something you’re currently doing, you simply need to manage your time more efficiently. Do some research on time management strategies.

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