Tony and Lauren Dungy have true, in-the-trenches expertise when it comes to teaching children about character, and it isn’t only dependent on their professional experience.

Tony Dungy is an NFL Hall of Fame player and coach and an NBC sports analyst. Lauren Dungy is an early childhood education specialist. Both are bestselling authors. But perhaps most importantly, they are the parents of 10 children, seven of whom are still at home. Their new “Team Dungy” books include “Austin Plays Fair” and “Maria Finds Courage,” both of which use sports as the backdrop to teach children important life lessons.

In “Maria Finds Courage,” a young girl finds the courage to try a new sport.

“We thought it was really important for kids to understand that doing things in life, you have to have that support to break out of your comfort zone,” Lauren Dungy said. “Many times, children are afraid to try something new, so they don’t do it.”

The books show normal fears that children face. They use a sports team to allow for diversity, so children can see themselves in the books, and show adults who guide and support them along the way – in this case, it’s Coach Tony and Coach Lauren.

“We have a love of reading and literature,” Lauren Dungy said. “If they grasp those skills at young age, it pays off for a lifetime of learning and success. We wanted to inspire them to read. When they read, they can travel the world, they try new things.”

Tony Dungy said the context of the stories was important to him and to his wife.

“We wanted it to be adults helping them through it,” he said. “We wanted to have a diverse group of kids.”

“We wanted the coaches to be positive influences, not people who would scream and yell at them,” Lauren Dungy said.

That is in keeping with Tony Dungy’s coaching philosophy of guiding players, not belittling them, and it plants seeds for young readers to look for adults who are wise and supportive.

“The kids would recognize these as positive traits,” Lauren Dungy said.

“These are life lessons – there are things you learn and pass on and things that are important for kids to get,” Tony Dungy said. “That was important for us to include. It ties in to Lauren’s messaging to children and my messaging to my players. You want to succeed and achieve in life, but you want to do it in the right way.”

Tony Dungy said he and his wife are committed to supporting the next generation because the support of others helped them achieve their goals.

“Both of us feel like people invested in us and we wanted to do the same,” he said. “We do feel like we got helped. We feel like that’s something God has given us a platform to do and we can do.”

“Austin Plays Fair” and “Maria Finds Courage” are now available in bookstores.

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