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Mentoring to a Win

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Posted: Friday, January 12, 2018 10:54 am | Updated: 11:00 am, Fri Jan 12, 2018.

   This past Monday we saw the Alabama Crimson Tide football team take home the national championship, following a nail-biting finish against the Georgia Bulldogs. For Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban it was his sixth national championship as a head coach, winning one with the LSU Tigers in 2003 and five in the last nine years with Alabama (2009, 2011-12, 2015, 2017). And although he never won a national title as head coach of Michigan State University, he led the Spartans to a 34-24 record during his five-year tenure.

   Undoubtedly, Saban has cemented his name in the college football history books as one of the greatest coaches of all time. And though the majority of Saban’s achievements are credited to his team’s performance on the gridiron, his accomplishments extend much further than the team’s accolades and the amount of hardware on his mantle. Just like any college coach would tell you, their goal is to not only groom athletes but to groom student-athletes as well.

   Every coaches’ job is to make sure that their players are more mature leaving the program than when they entered by providing valuable life lessons. They have the responsibility to mold their players into true professionals. And taking it even a step further, the job of a coach also includes being a leader and a mentor to his staff and


   What many may have not realized during the championship game on Monday was that for many years, Saban served as a mentor for Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart. In fact, Smart had coached under Saban on three separate occasions, including 2004 as his defensive backs coach at LSU. In 2006, Smart joined Saban as safeties coach for the Miami Dolphins, and then moved to Alabama with Saban in 2007 as an assistant coach before becoming a defensive coordinator for the team in 2008.

   Having a mentor is important on many levels. No matter what industry you are in – sports, business, technology, etc. – having a professional that you can trust and is committed to sharing their knowledge and information about the industry is extremely valuable. Mentors can also see where someone needs to improve and find ways to stimulate personal and professional growth.

   For Saban and Smart, their relationship was a rewarding one, winning four national championship together. Smart easily understood Saban and his mentality, which explains why they worked together so well. After years of learning from the Alabama Head Coach, Smart left to coach his alma mater in 2016 – his first head coaching position. In his two years with the team, he has a 21-6 record, an SEC Championship and now a National Championship appearance.

    Like Saban and Smart, the teacher-pupil relationship is prevalent in many other sports and has even been a foundation of learning and growth for many in NASCAR. For 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. was that mentor in the early portion of his career. In 2004, during Truex’s first full-time season in the XFINITY Series, which was his first full-time season in any of NASCAR’s three national series, Truex ran under the Dale Earnhardt Inc. banner. At the time the racing team was co-owned by Dale Jr. In Truex’s first two seasons, Dale Jr. helped lead the Mayetta, New Jersey native to back-to-back championships – both of which were celebrated right here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

   After winning his second title in the XFINITY Series, Truex was then promoted to the Monster Energy Series in 2006 where he also ran his first races as a full-time driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc. During his time with the racing team, Dale Jr. remained a mentor for Truex, as Dale Jr. was set to compete in the Cup Series full time for his seventh season.

   Similarly, long-standing friends and NASCAR champions Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart have shared a similar relationship over their careers as well. Stewart, who is a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, brought on Harvick to his racing team in 2014. At the time, Stewart had won three Monster Energy Series championship (2002, 2005 and 2011) and was now in a position serve as a guide for Harvick. In Harvick’s first year with the team, he earned his first Cup Series title by winning the inaugural Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Following Stewart’s retirement in 2016, he became even more of a mentor to Harvick, helping to lead him to another Championship 4 appearance in 2017.

   The mentor-mentee relationship truly is an important one and that is evident throughout all of sports. In addition to the successes it can bring, it is mutually beneficial because it forces both parties to maximize their professional potential.


Jan. 12 

Fast Lane Friday Presented By The Ticket Clinic

Jan. 12-14 

Driving 101 (NASCAR Racing Experience and Mario Andretti Racing Experience)

Jan. 12-14 

Superkarts! USA Winter Series (Kart Track)

Jan. 19-20 

24-Hour Ultra Skate

Jan. 20  

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Jan. 21  

Performance Driving Group

Feb. 2  

Fast Lane Friday Presented By The Ticket Clinic


Nov. 16  

Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 17  

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 18  

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race


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