Most Indianapolis residents know Tony Dungy as the coach who led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007. He also was the first Black coach to win the Super Bowl and the first coach to have a victory over all 32 NFL teams. Now the former coach partners with his wife, Lauren, to use his sports expertise in a new field: picture books. The husband and wife duo released their third book in their “Team Dungy” series, “Carson Chooses Forgiveness,” earlier this month.
The Dungys became interested in writing picture books when Tony coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lauren was in a program where the wives of the coaches and players would read picture books to children. She discovered picture books often lacked two details: a positive message and ethnic diversity. Tony and Lauren decided to make their own books to fill those gaps.
“We wanted to create stories that would be entertaining and engaging for the kids but at the same time have a good message,” Lauren said.
The “Team Dungy” series follows different sports teams from Trentwood Elementary School coached by fictional versions of Tony and Lauren. Tony said because many children are in sports, stories about athletics are relatable and effective ways to teach messages. In addition, writing about sports teams allows them to feature more ethnic diversity than if the series just followed a single family. While promoting the book “Maria Finds Courage” Tony remembered a Hispanic father thanked him for the commitment to diversity.
“He had a daughter who played soccer,” Tony said. “He never thought he’d see a book with a Hispanic girl playing soccer on the cover. He thought it was awesome to be able to give to his daughter. It was gratifying because that’s what we set out to do.”
“Carson Chooses Forgiveness” follows Carson, who loved playing on Trentwood’s basketball team until its best player, Daniel, became too arrogant. Daniel hogged the ball, bragged about his own skills and put down Carson. Carson and the team decide not to pass to Daniel, hurting their performance in the next game. In the middle of the game, the coaches teach the students to be forgiving and to work through problems with communication.
“They learn it’s better to forgive and move on than retaliate and hold grudges,” Lauren said. “We think forgiveness is a good lesson to share with other children because they often will come across situations where they’ll have to make that decision.”
“Carson Chooses Forgiveness” ends with Daniel apologizing for being a bad teammate and the team, including Carson, forgiving him. The Dungys do not reveal if Trentwood managed to win the game. Teaching the children how to become a better team was more important than whether they won.
“[Winning] wasn’t really the point of the story,” Tony said. “The point of the story was the kids finding themselves and understanding that forgiving and coming together was going to be better than staying apart and keeping that bitterness.”
The Dungys plan on writing a fourth book in their “Team Dungy” series. To brainstorm ideas, Tony and Lauren plan on reading “Carson Chooses Forgiveness” to different groups of children and ask them what they would like to see in picture books. While the input from children will help shape the next book, the couple also have their own plans they’re excited to try.
“We have a few more ideas up our sleeves for those coaches,” Tony said.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.
Pick up the book
“Carson Chooses Forgiveness” is currently available on Amazon.com and in book stores such as Barnes and Noble and Cokesbury Christian Bookstore.
Tony Dungy, former Indianapolis Colts coach, and his wife, Lauren, began writing children’s books because they believe there are not enough books with positive messages and ethnic diversity. (Photo/Ben Lashar)