Vai's View: Recognize others' potential and help them develop it

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 12:31 p.m. MST

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall made a bold move by promoting Brandon Doman to offensive coordinator last year, but I think he's limited the development of his staff by assuming the defensive coordinator job. It may work out short term, but he's sacrificing growth long term. Sure, Bronco is the best man for the job, but so is Whittingham at Utah. Whittingham has had the faith to subordinate what's best for his program short term, in order to strengthen it long term and along the way has prepared Sitake to take the next step in his career. Bronco can't make that claim about anyone on his defensive staff.

Before he promoted Johnson to offensive coordinator, Whittingham and I briefly discussed the possibility of our mutual friend and former teammate Robert Anae, an experienced coordinator who was available and familiar with the Pac-12 after a year at the University of Arizona. In the end, Whittingham felt Johnson was ready, deserving and needed the chance to grow and further enhance his resume.

In the decade that's lapsed since Gary Crowton became BYU's head coach, his coaching tree consists of one branch: Bronco Mendenhall.

In that same basic span, Urban Meyer's coaching tree yielded much more fruit: Whittingham at Utah, Steve Addazio at Temple, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Charlie Strong at Louisville, Gregg Brandon at Bowling Green, Mike Sanford at UNLV, Tim Beckman at Illinois, Dan McCarney at North Texas, and those are just the head coaches. The tree is bigger if you include coordinators. To be fair, Meyer continued as head coach at Florida after leaving Utah, while Crowton hasn't been a head coach since he left Provo.

If limited to just the Whittingham/Mendenhall eras that run concurrently, Whittingham has already sprouted two branches with Gary Andersen at Utah State and Norm Chow at Hawaii. Sitake is well-positioned to become a head coach after consideration at Hawaii before Chow's hire. Mendenhall has yet to produce a head coach from within his ranks. And the prospect isn't good, at least in the foreseeable future, because Mendenhall is the defensive coordinator and Doman has yet to prove himself.

The point is, the most successful coaches and organizations groom and develop their own talent and people.

As a stake officer for the LDS Church in New Jersey, I'm duty bound to help identify and develop leaders. My stake president, Ahmad Corbitt, likes to say that as a presidency, "We're gardeners — we have an obligation to help people grow."

In my youth, it wasn't that unusual for bishops in the Church to serve 10, 15 or even 20 years. Now, that term is five to seven, which allows more men to serve, providing a bigger pool of experienced leaders as the Church grows. I've been a part of that process, being called as a bishop 15 years ago just three years after retiring from the NFL with limited church leadership experience.

When he called me, my stake president informed me that one of my responsibilities was to help prepare my successor. Two men have since served as my bishop following my tenure: One was a counselor to me and my current bishop was my Young Men's president, so I'm pleased I had a hand in their development.

That process is ongoing. I visited a ward last week where the invocation and benediction were offered by the Relief Society president and the Young Men's president. At the conclusion of the service, I gently counseled the bishop that he should encourage his bishopric and all of his auxiliary leaders to offer those opportunities of public prayer, as much as possible, to ward members who might grow from the experience — the newly baptized, a shy youth or recently activated. We should constantly and consistently look for ways to help others grow in their sphere.

Isn't that what we do as parents? We instinctively know what will stretch our children beyond their capacity so we try to provide and encourage those experiences that will help them learn, grow and develop so they can reach their potential.

It's true in sports, in the church and within our own families.

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