Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn flew halfway across the world this summer, his mind consumed by the AFC West.
Tanzania was the final destination, but the mental layovers in Oakland, Denver and Kansas City were unavoidable.
“There were some matchups there that I was a little concerned about. … There were some needs and wants that I had written down. [But] coming back on the plane? I didn’t look at it one time. I was like, ‘We’re good. We’ve got everything we need.’”
The purpose of Lynn’s trip to East Africa was to open a K-3 school for 300 children of the Maasai Tribe. Through the Lynn Family Foundation – in partnership with Privilege 2 Serve – food, water and an education will now be available to children currently living in unspeakably “impoverished conditions.”
Experience the Chargers head coach's summer trip to Tanzania as the Lynn Family Foundation helps open a K-3 school in East Africa.
“This is three, four hours from civilization let alone 10,000 miles away in Africa,” said Ravi Reddy, the head of Privilege 2 Serve.
Perspective can be powerful. Lynn explained how sports has shaped the way he views life. His eight-day trip abroad, witnessing the day-to-day life of the Maasai, showed him the parallels to sports.
When young children’s school hours need to be adjusted to avoid lion-feeding hours, a 14-point deficit in a football game doesn’t seem so catastrophic. Not having access to clean water to drink or shower with is a far more difficult hardship than anything that may take place on a football field.
As the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers open training camp Thursday, these lessons from Tanzania will inevitably arise throughout the course of a 16-game season.
“I saw the toughness – the grit – and it was like your back’s against the wall every day over there,” Lynn said. “Sometimes it’s life and death, and when you practice that from the time you’re born all the way up, can you imagine the toughness and resiliency that that builds and develops in a person?”
Don’t be comfortable
Entering his third season as the Chargers’ head coach, Lynn sees a roster, front office and coaching staff that’s undergone little turnover. Since an 0-4 start in 2017, Los Angeles has a 21-7 record during the regular season, including a road playoff victory last season in Baltimore.
With familiar surroundings, it’s easy to get comfortable – a word Lynn doesn’t like.
“You’re going to have to do some things you haven’t done before to get to where you want to go,” he said.
Lynn has never rested on his laurels. In two years, the platform he’s earned as an NFL head coach has been used as a tool to serve and inspire others.
He and his wife, Stacey Bell, started their foundation in April 2019. Fundraising is one thing, but Lynn said it was important for him to commit to seeing the Tanzania project in action this offseason.
“It was intense because I wasn’t in my environment,” Lynn said. “I was out of my environment. I wasn’t comfortable at all. My head was always on a swivel. … When I say life and death, there are some real things going on over there. It’s real.”
Despite the unfamiliarity, Lynn instantly connected with the people of the Maasai.
“Anthony's people skills that bring out the best in each player were evident in Africa,” Reddy said. “He treated the [adults] like coaches and the kids like players, getting to know them [and] motivating them according to their strengths and weaknesses.”
Lynn is of the belief that greatness can come from being uncomfortable. Off the field, his impact in East Africa is just beginning.
The newly built school will eventually serve K-12 children. Perhaps the next great doctor, teacher or scientist emerges thanks to the educational opportunities that didn’t exist before the Lynn Family Foundation and Privilege 2 Serve.
As Lynn’s focus shifts to football, he’ll tell the team there are things they can control that don’t cost money or require talent. Focus, effort and preparation are just a few.
But during the peaks and valleys of an NFL season, difficult situations will arise. Adversity is inevitable. When it strikes, the head coach has a natural offseason parallel to draw from.
“There’s going to come a time where something's going to remind me of what took place in Africa, and we’re going to have that conversation,” Lynn said. “I don’t know when that’s going to be, but I’m sure it’s going to come. It’s going to happen at some point.”
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