The Importance of the 12th Man

Sponsored By: All Pro Dad

By Coach Tony Dungy

Week in and week out, I developed plays for my team, and my players practiced to make sure they executed well. In life and in football, even the best-designed plays and highly-prepared teams can fail in the face of adversity and disappointment. Those challenges weigh you down. For my players on the field, a coach’s voice of encouragement and supportive cheers from the crowd helped instill strength to face those obstacles and keep moving forward.

I remember it well. The cheers from our fans were central when we were down. We needed them. We needed their support and encouragement. At times when many counted us out, they carried us through. The same is true for us as individuals and as families dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life. Just like the players I coached, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed — even when we’re doing our very best. Here is how encouragement has helped our family and a group of people you may know who need your encouragement.

Everyone faces struggles.

For my wife and me, we know how helpful it is to have a strong fanbase in life. When we began adopting our children, and then fostering, the support from our friends and family was invaluable — and it still is. Our children are amazing and we are grateful for them every day. But as is the case with any child or any family, there are tough days and great days. We have toddlers who are learning the word “No!” and we have teenagers who are finding their own voice.

Coach Tony Dungy

With children at home from 4 to 19, we have our hands full. The support of friends and family both near and far helps guide us and encourage us, which is exactly what we need. This type of support and encouragement is critical for foster and adoptive families. And as a friend, colleague or relative of someone who has adopted or has foster children, you can help lift up their family, just as our fans lifted up our teams. Indeed, for many, you might just be the 12th man for them.

People Needing Encouragement

Couples and families who are preparing to have foster children or adopt are given extensive amounts of information, go through rigorous interviews and visits, and prepare day in, day out to expand their family. But all of those tactics and all of that planning can be hard to remember when there are hiccups in the process. Fan sections – the family and friends – can help refocus the families and help them remember the impact of their journey.

Those who are hoping to adopt or foster a child know that welcoming a child into their home will be joyous and challenging, all at the same time. Creating a family is hard. And they need people outside of the home to support and encourage them. They need a helping hand, an ear to listen, and a place to rest. Cheering on your friends and family who adopt and foster is like being their personal cheerleaders and fan base. Support them, encourage them and love them well so they, in turn, can love their families well.

Caring families are needed every day for children in foster care, as well as those children who need permanent homes in South Carolina. The need is greatest for teens and sibling groups. Learn more by visiting