All In!

ALL IN! Coach Dabo Swinney has claimed that exclamation as his mantra from the beginning of his tenure as head football coach at Clemson University. He demands a commitment from his players, staff, and coaches: a commitment to be “ALL IN” all the time. The “A” is for attitude; the first “L” is for leadership. The next “L” is for legacy. The “I” is for improvement and the “N” is for new beginnings. Nothing can be accomplished without a good attitude and capable leadership. Coach Swinney asks his players what their legacy will be when they leave Clemson. Will they leave the football program better than it was when they first arrived? Will they have made a difference in the lives of others? To leave such a legacy requires constant improvement, every day at practice, and at every game. Finally, there is always hope for a new beginning.

Coach Swinney knows all about hope for a new beginning. From an early age, he had a front row seat in watching a family destroyed by addiction. His father was an alcoholic; Coach Swinney said he was a good man and a good father, but sobriety was a constant struggle. Coach Swinney knows the shame and embarrassment of having to knock on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night to ask for help. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to throw all of your belongings into the back of a pickup truck when the family home is taken. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to hear sirens as the police approach your house. Coach Swinney knows what it is like to sleep on the floor of a small one bedroom apartment.

In the midst of this tragic childhood existence, Coach Swinney found hope for a new beginning. Words of encouragement from friends and coaches; a helping hand from a special neighbor or family member. Coach Swinney was able to take the liability of this experience and turn it into an asset, using his platform as the head coach of a major college football program. Coach Swinney currently serves on the board of directors for The Family Effect, a non-profit in Greenville, South Carolina, that works to reduce addiction as a leading cause of family collapse and harm to children. They operate Serenity Place, a residential treatment program for pregnant women, young mothers, and their preschool age children. The program at Serenity Place is focused and intense, providing treatment for addiction through individual and group counseling. They provide therapeutic child treatment and the family builds long-term skills for strength and self-sufficiency. For older boys, age 13-17, The Family Effect operates The Academy, a residential treatment center. The boys at The Academy have experienced significant problems with addiction and receive a wide range of counseling and treatment options. Among the outpatient teenagers, 80 percent are less likely to be using alcohol thirty days after treatment, and 97 percent are less likely to be using drugs.

I recently attended The Family Effect Transformation Breakfast, “a celebration of what works for children in crisis.” Coach Swinney shared his personal story, demonstrating why he is “ALL IN” for families and children living with addiction. You can find out more about the mission and programs of The Family Effect, volunteer opportunities and community impact by visiting its website at

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