Modeling the Faith
Growing up in East Texas with a name like Lovie, the former Chicago Bears’ head coach had to be tough. Named after his great aunt Lavanna, Lovie Smith was a stand-out on the football field, leading the Big Sandy Wildcats to three state championships. But there was more to Lovie than football.
His mother Mae worked at a local furniture factory and instilled in her son a faith in God. That faith was tested by an alcoholic father and a mother stricken with diabetes. “My mother and my father told me all of my life that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was told that you are supposed to work hard and treat people right. Throughout my coaching career, that's kind of how it happened." Thurman Smith, Lovie’s dad, gave up drinking toward the end of his life. He died in 1996 due to complications from emphysema, before his son ever coached a game in the NFL.
"Everything that I am is based on my faith. It has been a big part of me."
Lovie’s faith could be seen on the sidelines every Sunday. He didn't scream or cuss at his players or referees. Instead, he modeled his faith to his players by the way he carried himself on and off the field.
"Yelling and screaming—that's one of the most overrated [coaching] ideas out there," he says. "Maybe in the old days that's what you had to do. Nowadays, what I've found is that if you tell guys what to do ... they will do it. You don't have to belittle them, threaten them. I simply tell them what I want done. If they can't do it, there are other guys waiting for the chance to do it. I'm [also] not trying to be anybody's father, but I do accept the role as a father-figure."