Coaching Tree

This week’s blog post was written by Daren Dieleman.

I am a big Iowa Hawkeyes fan and have been since I was young – I hope I haven’t lost any readers after that opening statement. If you’ve watched a Hawkeyes football game on TV, you’ve probably heard references to legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry. Hayden Fry came to Iowa in the late 1970’s, shortly after Iowa had struggled through seventeen straight losing seasons. With Fry’s help, Iowa made some significant changes to their football team. Iowa’s logo, uniforms, visitor locker room, and style of play were transformed. Ultimately, Fry re-energized the Hawkeyes culture and the entire Iowa football program.
Fry’s teams at Iowa went on to be successful and his Iowa career lasted twenty seasons. A tenure which is almost unheard of today in coaching at the collegiate level. The cornerstone of Fry’s revival of the Iowa football program in the 1980’s wasn’t the uniforms or the logo, but rather the coaches he surrounded himself with. Hayden Fry hired some of the best coaches in the business, both young and old. In his autobiography, he said he wanted his coaches to go on to do greater things in their careers. He didn’t want to hire a coach that didn’t strive for something better, even if that meant pursuing careers at other schools. Fry encouraged others to be their best and took pride in mentoring others and helping them reach new heights in their careers. Due to Fry’s philosophy, Fry likely did a lot of hiring, coaching, and mentoring of new and young coaches.
As leaders, we should challenge ourselves to lead and develop our own people who may become future leaders themselves. We should also challenge our people to be and do their very best. Whether at work, home, in the community, as part of an organization, or in places of worship. As we move forward, we must ask ourselves: are we walking along side our people, coaching, mentoring, and providing them with opportunities? Or are we holding them back because they’re too valuable? Great leaders, like Hayden Fry, take pride in seeing someone they’ve coached and mentored go on to do great things. Consider your own development; can you think of someone who believed in you, coached and mentored you, and ultimately helped propel you to where you are today? I know I can, and if you’re like me, you view that person in very high regard. Someone who cared enough about you as an individual and about your personal development to ensure you succeeded, even if that meant more work for him/her in the end. Those types of leaders are rare and we should all strive to lead in that way.
Eight of legendary coach, Hayden Fry’s former assistant coaches went on to become major college football head coaches. His leadership is truly inspiring! If you look at a photo of his coaching staff from the 1980’s there are several other coaches around him who went on to do great things. We may not all have the success that Hayden Fry received. However, if we take the time to invest in our people and lead by helping others find success, we will create strong companies, families, and communities.
Hayden Fry surrounded himself with a strong network of good people who became great leaders. What will your “leadership tree” look like in ten, twenty, or even thirty years? Who will you have helped mentor and develop, either personally or professionally, to do great things?
Continue leading the Interstates way!
Daren Dieleman


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