Q & A with Coach Mertens

UncommonThe requests came nonstop the first few weeks of school. Nearly every Lakes football player who visited the ILC wanted to get his hands on one of our two copies of Tony Dungy’s Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance. Our hold list grew. One student preferred not to be added to the list, but he continued to ask about the title two months into the year, hoping for a stroke of good luck each time he wandered in for a new SSR book.

Why the hype? Because Lakes football head coach Luke Mertens framed his team’s 2014 season around the messages the former Indianapolis Colts coach lays out in his book about living a life of significance. It goes to show you how much of an influence teachers and coaches can have over their students to read. 

How did you first hear about Dungy’s book and why did you decide to read it?
I read Dungy’s first book, Quiet Strength, and I was so impressed with his coaching philosophy that reading his next book, Uncommon, was a natural progression for me.


What inspired you to frame your 2014 football season (and past seasons) around the book’s messages?
Really it goes beyond this team. Since 2009, “Uncommon” has been the guiding focus of our entire football program. I have always believed in outworking people in everything that I do, and after reading Dungy’s book, I was able to frame that philosophy with one simple but powerful word, “Uncommon.”


How did/do you communicate Dungy’s messages to your team and coaching staff?
To be honest, I don’t think a day goes by that our players are not hearing “uncommon” from myself or one of my assistants. It truly has become the backbone in everything that we do, both in and out of the classroom.


What did/do you hope it would accomplish?
I don’t want my players to be “wishers”; rather, I want them to be achievers, and I believe one of the first steps to becoming an achiever is a person being willing to do what others are not willing to do (a.k.a. uncommon).


Did/does it work?
I will be able to tell you more in about 10-20 years when I get to see what type of men our players have become. In the immediate, I feel really good where we are at as a program.  We have won 4 straight conference championships, 6 straight IHSA Playoff qualifications, and for 2 straight years, we have led the entire conference in players earning Academic All-Conference, which requires a minimum of 3.5 GPA.


Did you encourage your athletes to read the book for themselves or did they decide to do it on their own?
I always encourage reading the book and I hand out a copy to one player per week as well.


Any other book recommendations you feel like sharing while you have the stage?
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I find it pretty interesting to get some insight into how our minds work.

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