Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has always view platform as responsibility. He understands that with his job comes a certain level of authority, and he feels an obligation to utilize that responsibility to affect positive changes.
We have previously talked about the ManUp initiative, and as part of an interview for that project, Tomlin recently talked about something else that was particularly close to him this year, which is the strength of your word, and the value that it holds.
“One of the challenges that I see in sport these days is, your word means less”, he said. “I think those of us that are in the sporting world, those of us that wear the moniker of coach at any level, we have an opportunity to combat that with the young people that we work with”.
Tomlin recognizes that the first responsibility falls on the coaches themselves. “We combat that first and foremost by living out the things that we say, and making sure that we’re true to our word”, he said. “And then we challenge them and hold them to be accountable to be true to their word”.
This was largely sparked by the recruiting process that he just went through with his oldest son, something that he talked about. “To watch kids commit and then decommit to schools and open their recruiting back up, it was just one of those things that really has kind of struck me like a lightning bolt”, the Steelers head coach told his host. “I told my son early in his process that if you make a commitment to a university, then your recruiting process is over. That’s where we’re going. It doesn’t matter how attractive the next pursuer is”.
“Your word means something”, he went on. “To watch how the word commitment is thrown around in today’s recruiting world, where kids commit and decommit, universities offer scholarships but then pull it back, and this shuffling, is really saddening to be quite honest with you, and it’s kind of my mission based on my exposure to that in the last year to really talk about being true to your word, and particularly those of us in athletics”.
Tomlin might have been recently exposed to this first-hand through the experiences of his son in the recruitment process, but frankly I don’t know how recent it is, and we know that all parties go back on their word. Teams far more often fail to live up to their contracts than do players, something he doesn’t specifically address, so it’s not clear how he feels about that.
“It’s a shame, but I’m watching athletics be a negative vehicle, and usually athletics is such a positive vehicle for good, moral decision-making and things of that nature”, he went on. “That’s something that I’m advocating in 2019”.
Anybody following him for a while knows that Tomlin has long advocated for the role of sports in teaching ethical and life lessons, believing that much of value can be extracted about participation that can be applied to the rest of your life. In that light, it makes more sense that he drew this reaction.