A great man passed away at the age of 94. Ara Parseghian has left behind a legacy and an impressive career. His management skills and knowledge can teach all of us.
Ara Parseghian was the head football coach at Miami (five seasons), Northwestern (eight seasons) and Notre Dame (11 seasons). Parseghian led Notre Dame to National Championships in 1966 and 1973. Ara Parseghian was inducted into the College football Hall of Fame in 1980. He retired from coaching at age 51 and then embarked on a broadcasting career.
Ara Parseghian was a great man and an outstanding coach! At Miami, the cradle of coaches, Ara had success and raised his profile Nationally. Ara then went to Northwestern at age 32 and brought the Wildcats back to respectability. Notre Dame was Parseghian’s next stop and he returned the Fighting Irish to prominence! Ara Parseghian was fiercely determined and also paid great attention to details. Another of Ara’s strengths was that he moved players to other positions where they flourished. One example was he moved Jack Snow from running back to wide receiver. Parseghian gave Quarterback John Huarte an opportunity, and Huarte went on to win the Heisman Trophy.
Ara Parseghian was a “down to earth” guy whose Notre Dame teams never lost consecutive games during his tenure. I met Ara at a Notre Dame game in South Bend that he was broadcasting. I spoke to him at length and Ara could not have been nicer.
When Ara Parseghian got the Notre Dame job, he realized he had to reinstill confidence in his players. He did just that and as Jack Snow said, “He made us believe in ourselves.” The “Era of Ara” ended after the 1974 season when Parseghian resigned saying, “He was physically exhausted and emotionally drained.” Ara Parseghian started the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1974. Three of his grandchildren died of Niemann-Pick disease. Ara Parseghian will be missed. But the wisdom he left behind will remain as lessons for all of us. Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, spoke out about how important Parseghian was to them:
“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man — Ara Parseghian,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, said in a statement. “Among his many accomplishments, we will remember him above all as a teacher, leader and mentor who brought out the very best in his players, on and off the field.”
A good mentor with great leadership skills can be hard to find. It’s not something that most of us are just born with, it takes years of constant learning and growth to become a successful mentor. Mentoring in itself is a skill like any other, it takes time and you must be willing to continue learning and growing every day. As Mark Brown said, being a great mentor isn’t easy.
There is not one single skill that automatically makes a good mentor. Instead, mentors have a long list of skills including listening, teaching, training, guiding, storytelling, coaching, and most importantly human personalities and motivations. You can be a world class mentor. It requires life skills that grow through experience, failure, improvement, and practice. What lessons have you learned that make you a better mentor? Have you learned more from a book, or by practice? What are you learning now, that will make you a better mentor?
Never stop learning or practicing. The skills that are required to be a great mentor should be molded and honed daily. That’s something that Ara Parseghian knew and proved day in and day out as a coach.