Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, current ESPN analyst and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has moved on to new challenges in life.
One of those is hosting a new reality show for Spike TV, Coaching Bad, where Lewis teams up with Dr. Christian Conte to help nine youth coaches shed anger issues and become better coaches and people. Lewis wants to take on the "growing epidemic" of coaches with major anger issues that pervades youth sports more each day.
Lewis recently sat down with me to chat about the show.Bleacher Report: What was the inspiration for the show?
Ray Lewis: Funny you should ask that—we went around a few times until we landed on the concept of the show and the direction we wanted to go with the show. It was interesting—I was kind of head over heels of excitement. [Anger in coaching] is a huge issue in this world.
When it came to it, I was like “That’s a great topic.” We will always have players and coaches that will have that at some level. I look at it as a great thing. Some people look it as coaches and players, but I look it as pure relations to people.B/R: Why do you think so many coaches go down the path of negativity?
Lewis: I think what we’re trying to figure out as a sporting culture is: Why do people treat people a certain way? The bottom line of the show is relationships. It’s about people relating to people.
When you get to the show, one thing you’ll find interesting is that a lot of the coaches were bringing out things from their past. They were taking things out of their past and taking it out on their kids. My issue for really doing this show is, “How can you willingly treat kids like this? How can you send that kid home, not knowing what he’s going home to or what situation he or she is in?”
Ultimately you’re parenting these kids. If you give them a bunch of curse words [or other negativity] you might inspire them to go out and do something else. That’s why I think we need to figure out what the real issue is and why so many coaches go out on this road to belittle children. B/R: Who were some of your favorite coaches throughout your career?
Lewis: My high school coach—coach Ernest Joe—was probably the guy who became the greatest father figure in my life. I didn’t have much. I couldn’t get home from school every day. There were certain things he would sacrifice to go above and beyond. When I got to University of Miami—Dennis Erickson and Randy Shannon, the linebacker coach, they were great coaches. Maxie Baughan, he was the top of the food chain [in Baltimore] with how he would talk to players. My rookie year he would have conversation with me, even knowing I was young, when I was trying to do too much, he would always bring me back to a simple conversation.
Probably one of the coaches who I will always respect for the way he coached was Jack Del Rio. Me and Jack would have pure conversations. I can go down the line—Rex [Ryan] was like that. Mike Nolan was like that. I had a good coaching tree of coaches who did it that way. If you want to talk to me, talk to me. Don’t yell at me, I’m not a kid.
And that’s why I look at it as a real problem—they’re talking to kids like that. I remember the cursing and the different things they used to make you do. But a lot of times you’re sending these kids back into situationsB/R: You look at the coaches in the Super Bowl—Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. Different styles and approaches. What do you see in them that makes them successful?
Lewis: When you think about Pete or Bill, it’s their structure. It’s their infrastructure of the way their system is run. That’s what you respect the most, definitely when you talk about a Bill Belichick-run team it’s going to be a flawless structure. Under his tutelage it’s going to be very rare to have something out of place. That’s why he’s going up against Pete Carroll, who is a finely oiled machine as well.
Both of these teams are fine teams by the coaches’ mentality. That’s why I think when you watch this game boil down to the fourth quarter, the mentality of these coaches and their influence on the league is going to stand out.B/R: Do you think coaches with anger issues undermine the potential good football and other sports do?
Lewis: I do. Because people talk about the game of football and how bad it can be, this and that. The game of football not only gave my family life—a different life—it gave me the discipline and structure that is part of the reason that I’m the man I am today. That’s my point of saying the game itself—the ups and downs—they will correct you yourself. I get it, emphasis on things as a coach, but there’s a way to do everything. There’s a way to talk to people like a human being!
These kids are spending more time with these coaches than they’re spending with their parents sometimes, and you ask yourself, “If we’re supposed to be the future and we’re the father figures, then don’t brand them in that way!” The game can teach you a lot. It’s a military-style structure to where everything is structured.
Now I’d never compare it to the military because that’s life and death, but there are things that happen in the game that are life-changing. The game itself is enough of a roller coaster. The message should be clear on what this show is trying to do, and that is—mothers and fathers—understand who is coaching your kids. Spend some time with who is coaching your kids. It might shock the heck out of you.B/R: You’re known for your passion. How do you channel that in a positive way?
Lewis: I don’t take away passion. I love passion. I love for a coach to be passionate. I love energy. All I’m saying is there is a level that we all understand is way too much. When you’re talking about kids, the level I’m talking about is—I don’t care who you are—no coach who is coaching kids should ever curse a kid.
When you start affecting other people’s futures [in a negative way], that’s when you’ve missed the point. That’s when you’ve missed your calling to be a father or mother figure. We let the title get in the way. Being a “coach” doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. You can figure out ways to teach kids. It’s not about wins and losses—they’re a dime a dozen. When you take away character—if you realize respect your elders, or we can get through it—there are so many ways to get through to people. They know nothing about people issues.
Everybody has an opinion. If the opinion is really real, I ask the coaches, “Take a step back—would you want someone treating your child this way? Would you let another man treat your child or put their hands on your child the way you’re doing it?” Once again, it’s about relationships. It’s about figuring out a way to talk to people without belittling them.B/R: Dr. Conte calls you one of the greatest motivators on the planet Earth. Do you view yourself that way? How do you get here?
Lewis: I got there through a lot of pain. Persecution. And God with every step in my life. My speeches come from a direct connection. There is nothing I say that I say to be light. I’m sharing knowledge because it is to be gained, then shared. When you understand why I’m really doing it, it’s because somebody has to. I go places that people rarely go—the gut of guts. What life is in this world and how much time in this world we worry about everybody else.
I don’t want to be liked. I want to be respected. Because if you like me you can throw me away too quick. If you respect me, you may not even like what I was wearing, but you’ll say, “I respect that.” I just believe your greatest motivational speakers are able to get someone to view their life—their situation—differently. That’s where my passion comes from, a very deep-rooted place that I will never let a judgment of people or this world ever dictate my happiness.
That’s where my speeches come from. I couldn’t care less what others think. If you’ve spent a lot of time with me, there’s a bunch of things I don’t do. If I’m gonna speak to you, I’m gonna do it from the way I see it or view it. There are gonna be a few nuggets in there that you’ll need to grab and run with it. I have to go back to my room and get to a quiet place after my speeches.
Nobody realizes the energy that comes out of me—it’s draining. You spend so much time trying to get someone to understand it. I just want to see people attempt to do it right. B/R: Did you learn anything from your time with these nine coaches?
Lewis: I’m really glad you asked that question.
What I learned the most—a lot of these coaches are dealing with what a large percentage of our country deals with: past pain. Things from their past that they have never gotten over. Things—some abuse, the way your father treated you or what he said to you—that, when you’re watching this show is that a whole bunch of people are going to have to do a real reality check with themselves.
Man, these problems are deeply rooted. The kids aren’t the issue. The issue is that there are things inside of you that you need to get out! If you don’t address these issues, you can’t get better. When you try to help people become a better person, you’re going to have to find out what’s really going in their world. Did someone beat them or do something to them that they didn’t like?
It wowed me. “We’re here with these coaches, but how did they get here?” I started to say to myself, “Man, can you imagine the people and the kids that suffer because of someone’s past pain?” When you see the show you’re going to see a very intriguing part in the show because a lot of those in life.