Volume 20, Issue 31 | April 13, 2021
The Value of Sports for Every Child
Terri Vitale knows a thing or two about the value of sports. The daughter of famed sports broadcaster and former coach Dick Vitale, Terri played college tennis at Notre Dame, served as President of the University's Monogram Club, and is now the mother of a college athlete. In this short video, she talks about the physical benefits and lessons learned through sports regardless of the level at which children participate.
As a sports parent, you may identify with Vitale's passion for sports and the impact it has on your own children. Yet too many children don't have the same experience. Each year, more kids are left on the sidelines because they lack the financial resources to join a team, have been told they aren't talented enough, or simply haven't been invited to participate. You can help change that. Consider three ways that you can help a young person to experience the value of sports:
You may be able to think of several other great ways to give more children an opportunity to experience the many benefits of sport. This week, consider how you can use your role as a sports parent to bring the joy of sports to more kids in your community.
Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
~ 1 Timothy 4:8
Play Like a Champion believes strongly that women make great coaches. At the youth or high school level and beyond, women have the character, experience and skill necessary to teach boys and girls of all ages. Further, we believe that sports need great female coaches to serve as role models for younger generations of girls, to show these leaders of tomorrow what they can become. Unfortunately, the number of women serving as coaches is not nearly high enough. Consider that it has been almost 45 years since Title IX was established and female sport participation is at an all-time high. Yet, only about 15% of youth coaches are women. This lack of female role models and female coaches may contribute to the higher drop out rate for girls; about 60% of the adolescents that drop out of sports are females.
Play Like a Champion is on a mission to increase the number of female coaches by increasing awareness, inviting women to get involved, and advocating for practices that promote the increase of female coaches in youth and high school sports. What can you do to join this important cause?
Together, we can increase the number of female coaches and create opportunities for more girls and women to impact sports and demonstrate their awesome leadership ability. Join us as #WeChampionFemaleCoaches in communities across America!
A Prayer for Sports Parents
God, I thank you for the wonderful blessing it is to watch my children play sports. Thank you for the smile that it brings to their face and for the ways in which sports help them to grow in virtue and skill. I ask that as they participate you protect them from injury and harm and bless them with the grace to reach their full potential. Bless their coaches that they may embrace their role and have the courage to always do what is right for the children you have entrusted to their care. Grant all sports parents the graces we need to be supportive and to have perspective. May we seek not our own will for our child, but yours, and in doing so be freed to let them enjoy this experience no matter the result. May each of us - child, coach and parent - glorify you through our actions and come to know you better through this experience. I ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Play Like a Champion's "Daily Prayers for Champions" page has been updated! Visit www.playlikeachampion.org/daily-prayers for more than 200 prayers plus resources that can help you and your team grow closer to God while participating in sports.
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Volume 20, Issue 30 | April 6, 2021
Coaching for Moral Development
A team is an ideal environment for teaching children how to grow in a number of different ways. While the focus in sports is often on a child's physical development, it's important to remember that their mental, social, emotional and moral development is likely far more important. With that in mind, Play Like a Champion founder and Executive Director Dr. Clark Power offers his thoughts in a short video on how coaches can develop a team culture that teaches moral values and promotes ownership, while building positive relationships between athletes, coaches, opponents and officials.
Watch the video above and write down two concrete ways that you will deliberately emphasize moral development on your team. Consider how you will go about setting goals with your team that go beyond x's and o's and foster a team culture committed to not just winning, but becoming Champions. As Power notes, doing so will not only instill important values in the young athletes entrusted to your care, but will also create a team that is more invested, more committed to each other, and better prepared to succeed both on and off the field.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. ~ Luke 24:1-5
Save the Date: Virtual Leadership Conference June 23-24, 2021
The Play Like a Chapmion Today Sports Leadership Conference is going virtual again in 2021. While we will miss seeing everyone in-person, the virtual format provides an exciting opportunity for our entire national community to engage with fellow athletic leaders, learn from a fantastic group of speakers, and be inspired.
This year's conference will take place across two days on Wednesday, June 23rd and Thursday, June 24th, with our annual Pre-Conference Retreat also returning in the virtual format. Registration begins soon! Click the link below to visit the conference website and be on the lookout for more information on this year's event.
Visit the Official Conference Website for More Information
A Prayer for Teams: The Regina Caeli
The Regina Caeli prayer is believed to have originated in the 12th century. A legend suggests that St. Gregory the Great heard the first three lines chanted by angels on Easter morning. Regardless of origin, this beatiful prayer is prayed throughout the Easter season, often as part of the Church's traditional night prayer and also by replacing the Angelus from Easter until Pentacost. It can be prayed by both individuals and groups in the format below.
Call: Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
Response: For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
C: Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R: Pray for us to God, alleluia.
C: Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R: For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Volume 20, Issue 28 | March 23, 2021
Faith in Athletics
Becoming a Champion athlete means developing not only physical skills, but also growing mentally and spiritually. In a short video (right), Bruce Scifres calls faith an "unfair advantage" on the athletic field, because we gain "so much confidence and courage with Christ in our hearts." Scifres knows a thing or two about developing athletes, having won 7 state championships over 27 years as the head coach at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis before retiring to take over the city's CYO programs in 2017. As an author and speaker, he talks about "taking God with you on the field for every play," recognizing the presence of God in all aspects of our lives - sports very much included - and making prayer a key part of athletics.
Jay Wright is another high level coach who understands the importance of faith in the lives of athletes. The Villanova head basketball coach has won 2 of the last 4 Division I Men's Basketball national championships. He credits a big part of the team's success to chaplain Fr. Rob Hagan. Watch this short clip from last summer's Play Like a Champion Sports Leadership Conference, where Wright talks about the importance of faith on his team and the impact a team chaplain can make on the team's culture.
What can you do to make faith an important part of your individual and team experience?
Start by making prayer an integral part of what you do: follow Villanova's example and pray before and after games, recognizing God's presence with humility as you prepare to glorify him through your play. Create the role of team chaplain. While it would be terrific to have a priest or religious in this role, this can also be filled by a student-athlete who organizes prayer and activities that build the team's faith. Follow the advice of Bruce Scifres and "take God with you on the field" during practice and competition. Our ability to compete in sports is God-given and he is always with us, so take a moment to affirm his presence, ask for his grace, and commit to glorifying him in our performance. Take these steps and you will find sports as an opportunity to grow spiritually in addition to developing physical and mental skills.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Join us for a Virtual Spring Break Camp!
No plans for Spring Break? There's still time to register for Play Like a Champion's free 2021 Virtual Spring Break Camp! Last June, we offered a Virtual Summer Sports Camp that attracted hundreds of children from across the country. This year, we've compiled the "greatest hits" to bring you a Virtual Spring Break Camp. This virtual camp will provide 5 days of activities, with approximately 90 minutes of programming that includes sport-specific training, cardio-focused fitness, mindfulness exercises designed to improve mental health and performance, and character development from Play Like a Champion staff and special guests. Each day features an all-star lineup of youth, high school and college coaches.
This 5 day camp is free and available on-demand so that you can access the online videos and get your children moving at your convenience - during Spring Break or any other time! To learn more and to register, simply click the link below to visit the camp website. We'll see you there!
Learn More & Register: Virtual Spring Break Sports Camp
Stations of the Cross
During the Season of Lent, Play Like a Champion encourages partners to pray the Sport Stations of the Cross as a team spiritual activity. Click here to access all the Sport Stations including ideas on a physical conditioning component and additional reflections with each station for your team. Here is one Station specific to the challenges of 2021:
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
John 17:19: Carrying his own cross, he went to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
For many, the past year has brought times of pain and suffering, whether because of personal loss, family hardship, or simply missing the ability to be with friends and participate in your favorite activities. Much like sports, there are times in our lives where hurt, pain and injury must be endured. How do you deal with this emotional or physical pain? Do you embrace it and offer it to God, remembering that he too endured great pain on the cross?
All: Empower me Jesus with the virtue of fortitude to endure hardships.
Volume 20, Issue 27 | March 16, 2021
Self-Care for Coaches
Today's note continues our "Mindfulness March" theme, delivering resources and support to your inbox that will allow you and your athletic community to not simply survive a chaotic spring season, but to endure with courage, fortitude and grace. Throughout this month, we are focusing on coping techniques for coaches to stay strong and focused through the on-going pandemic. At Play Like a Champion, we acknowledge the heartbreaks and mourn the losses we have experienced over the last year. Yet in the next breath, we celebrate the creativity and flexibility that our national network of partner coaches and athletes have utilized to prosper.
In a recent summit with partner Athletic Directors and coaches, adjectives we heard to describe your current experience included: frustrated, exhausted, challenged and torn. Attendees also expressed converse emotions of feeling: grateful, blessed, hopeful and inspired. Having these competing emotions pulling at your heartstrings can be a conundrum. The stress of the continued pandemic is palpable and undeniable. So, what do we as coaches charged with the care of our student-athletes do in this space?
We must take time for self-care. As Eleanor Brownn reminds us, “Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Making time and space for self-care includes considering each of these pillars:
Physical: Attending to adequate sleep, daily exercise and nutrition.
Emotional: Focusing on stress management, coping skills, self-compassion and getting in touch with your mental health history and how it may trigger your own responses/reactions.
Spiritual: Making time and finding your sacred space for prayer, meditation, deep breathing and/or conscious relaxation.
Social: Strengthening your support system by utilizing peer support to process/debrief difficult situations and setting boundaries where needed.
Personal: Nourishing your authentic self though creativity expressed through hobbies and/or leisure.
Space: Ensuring a healthy environment in a stable and safe place.
Work: Balancing time management by setting work/home life boundaries and allowing for adequate breaks.
The practice of mindfulness is a terrific way to attend to mental, physical and spiritual self-care. By taking a moment to breath and training yourself to be fully present in each moment, adminstrators, coaches and athletes can improve their own health and performance. In the video to the left, expert coach Kim Hill gives a brief overview of the practice and leads you through a short example of mindfulness technique.
Now let’s make this real for you! Use this worksheet to write down your self-care goals so you can remain your best and serve your student-athletes well. Set realistic goals that are tangible and trackable. Take it one day at a time. Then, at the end of the week, evaluate how you are doing in caring for self so that you can be your best for others. Feel free to share this worksheet with your athletes as well so you can normalize the stress everyone is feeling and do something tangible as a team to manage this pressure.
As a final note, be mindful of when it is time to seek professional help for yourself and your athletes. When you are employing self-care techniques and your feelings of anxiety continue to increase, reach out to a counselor or another support network. Normalize for yourself and your athletes the value in getting mental health help.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time
Psalm 22:14: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
We are all stumbling and falling this year in the face of an ongoing pandemic that has affected our sports and our lives. We have persevered through tough times and challenges keep surfacing. Deep in our gut, we know we can’t quit. We’ll get through this together. Who or what can give us the courage to keep getting back up?
All: Give me the gift of persistence so that I might persevere to become more like you, Jesus.
Play Like a Champion's "Daily Prayers for Champions" page has been updated! Visit www.playlikeachampion.org/prayer for more than 200 prayers plus resources that can help you and your team grow closer to God while participating in sports.
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Volume 20, Issue 26 | March 9, 2021
Parents Can Help Athletes Manage Stress & Improve Performance
According to the NCAA, nearly one in three adolescents in the U.S. meet criteria for an anxiety disorder. Of those, half begin experiencing their anxiety disorder by age six. As sport parents, one practical and tangible way you can help your children manage anxiety is through practicing mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness is not just some existential fad with immeasurable results, it really works. For instance, the College of Applied Medical Sciences found that mindfulness meditation therapy reduced cortisol (a stress hormone that’s released by the adrenal gland) levels in elite athletic shooters by as much as 50%. This is a substantial drop, especially when considering the disconcerting effects of high cortisol levels. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
Go With the Flow
In a 2016 study by the International Association of Applied Psychology, researchers investigated whether an eight-week mindfulness intervention could increase athletes’ flow experience. Flow experience is the feeling of “enhanced physical and psychological function” and a sense of “freedom stemming from absence of negative thought and self-conscious evaluation.” While findings from this experiment should be interpreted with cautions due to a small sample size and cyclist-specific mindfulness training, the athletes who received the intervention showed:
Ultimately, mindfulness training helps athletes perform better by helping them focus on the present.
Here is how you can help your child gain the benefits of practicing mindfulness. We encourage sport parents to practice mindfulness as well. Consider making it a daily family ritual by practicing these techniques together.
Practicing meditation helps athletes manage pain, reduce anxiety, and improve concentration. Practicing meditation bright and early each morning with a five-minute breathing exercise is a good way to fit mindfulness into every day. During this time, focus on your physical presence, a positive mantra, and most importantly, your breath.
Be sure you’re breathing from your diaphragm and that you’re fully engaged in every inhale and exhale. It helps to find a quiet place that’s comfortable for you—this could be a yoga mat, bed, or chair. If you feel your mind start to wander, pull your thoughts back to your breathing. Note that mindfulness meditation can also have a spiritual dimension. There are a number of Catholic resources on the topic, including this book that provides a good overview.
Positive Self Talk
Make sure the voice in the back of your head is sending the right messages. Ditch feelings of uncertainty, thoughts of messing up, or judgement from others. These thoughts can only damage performance. Instead, think of positive or even objective thoughts. Find your target, be it a goal, a finish line, or a basket and how to get there. Talk to yourself about the faith you have in your own abilities. Much like meditation, thinking of a positive mantra can get you pumped and feeling energized. Some positive mantras might be, “I got this.” “I believe I can.”
Ever hear the expression a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, that stands true for mindfulness as well. Painting a positive mental image of yourself performing can work wonders once you’re actually in a competition. Athletes can manage performance anxiety by imagining themselves utilizing what they’ve learned in practice, capitalizing on their strengths, and making better in-game decisions.
How Much of the Game is Mental?
According to Keith Kaufman, PhD, speaking at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association: “It’s been suggested that many coaches regard sport as at least 50 percent mental when competing against opponents of similar ability. In some sports, that percentage can be as high as 80 to 90 percent mental.” So, helping your child (and yourself) to employ these mindfulness strategies will improve your lives on and off the court.
Explore several additional resources to help you engage in mindfulness practices. Click here for several great options online and on your phone!
Special thanks to Kim Hill, Director of Mindfulness Strategies for contributing this note. To learn more, visit Kim’s website with a plethora of resources or click here to contact Kim.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
~ Colossians 3: 2
Join Us for Virtual Spring Break Camp!
With COVID-19 still putting many Spring Break plans on hold in 2021, Play Like a Champion is here to provide a fun activity for parents who want to keep kids active. Last June, we offered a Virtual Summer Sports Camp that attracted hundreds of children from across the country. This year, we've compiled the "greatest hits" to bring you a Virtual Spring Break Camp. This free, virtual camp will provide 5 days of activities, with approximately 90 minutes of programming that includes sport-specific training, cardio-focused fitness, mindfulness exercises designed to improve mental health and performance, and character development from Play Like a Champion staff and special guests. Each day features an all-star lineup of youth, high school and college coaches.
This 5 day camp is free and available on-demand so that you can access the online videos and get your children moving at your convenience - during Spring Break or any other time! To learn more and to register, simply click the link below to visit the camp website. We'll see you there!
A Prayer for Parents
Slow me down, Lord! Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my harried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amidst the confusion of my day, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tensions of my nerves with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of slowing down to look at a flower; to chat with an old friend or make a new one; to pat a stray dog; to watch a spider build a web; to smile at a child; or to read a few lines from a good book. Remind me each day that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed. Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well. Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
By William A. Peterson
Volume 20, Issue 24 | February 23, 2021
LEAD: A Team Discussion
February is Black History Month and Play Like a Champion has highlighted a number of trailblazing African-Americans in sport through our social sites. We hope your team has celebrated these pioneers and the advances they have made for greater equity and inclusion in sports. We still have a lot of work to do in the quest for racial equality, but the important thing is to get started. This is an excellent time to have a team discussion about race.
The coach or the team captain can lead the discussion following the framework of L.E.A.D. L is for “Listen” with the goal to obtain E – “Equity” and A – “Awareness” through the D – “Dialogue.”
Here are some questions to begin and guide your conversation:
For a second discussion, have the team watch this clip:
Play Like a Champion suggests the “Peace Circle” process as a guideline for LEAD so that players and coaches express themselves in a safe and honest group environment where players practice listening to each other and reflecting on how they can help each to develop a caring team community.
Sit in a Circle. Sitting in a circle reminds coaches and players on your team that you are all equal parts of a whole.
Size of Circle. If you have a large team, you will want to break your team into smaller circles led by coaches. Ideally your circles should have from 5 to 15 members.
The Talking Piece. The talking piece is an object with some significance to your team (e.g. an autographed baseball or sneaker) used to let people know whose turn it is to talk while everyone else listens. Only the person who has the talking piece may talk.
The Center Piece. The center piece is placed in the middle of the circle and reminds members of the team that we are one. The center piece, like the talking piece should be an object that has special meaning for the team’s identity.
The Keeper of the Circle. The keeper’s role is to facilitate the circle process and to make sure that it is respectful. The keeper is also responsible for keeping track of time so that everyone has a chance to speak during each round of the discussion. In the opening round or two, it is usually helpful to ask everyone to answer in a sentence or two. The keeper should have one or two questions in mind for each meeting. Initially, the keeper may want to ask a simple question (e.g., Please share with us something that happened in school today?) to get everyone talking. The keeper may choose to go first and act as a model. The keeper’s questions may address any problems or concerns that may have arisen within the team or perhaps an issue that arose during a game. The keeper can be the coach or one of the athletes.
Guidelines. Before starting the circle discussion, it is important to establish guidelines that everyone must agree to follow. We recommend that you suggest these guidelines and explain the purpose of each one.
Closing. End the meeting by reviewing what agreement(s) may have been reached and, if time permits ask everyone to say in a word or two how they are feeling as the meeting comes to a close.
February is a good month to start these conversations about race; however, do not let the topic lapse. This should only be the beginning of the discussion for your team and your sports community. This is a topic left undiscussed for too long, it’s time we give it due consideration. We honor Black History (every day and every) Month.
A Specific Example: Lancers for Equity, Awareness and Dialogue (LEAD) at Francis Parker School in San Diego
In conjunction with the Athletics Department, Francis Parker student-athletes come together to give a voice and empower their peers to develop a community where everyone has a seat at the welcome table. LEAD is launching a series entitled Being Comfortable being Uncomfortable - Having Intentional Conversations on Race that Lead to Unity and Understanding. Athletic Director Anthony Thomas says, “It is our hope that these series of honest dialogues will lead to what Derald Wing Sue describes as, ‘honest race talk is one of the most powerful means to dispel stereotypes and biases, to increase racial literacy and critical consciousness about race issues, to decrease fear of differences, to broaden one’s horizons, to increase compassion and empathy, to increase appreciation of all colors and cultures, and to enhance a greater sense of belonging and connectedness.’”
Honest discussions on these topics are difficult; yet, through intentional and purposeful work of student-athletes a community can become aware, united and committed to inclusion.
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law... Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13: 8,10
Youth & High School Partner Summits
As schools and organizations continue to adjust to changes to sports due to COVID-19, Play Like a Champion is continuing our Partner Summit Series of webinars, gathering leaders from youth and high school athletics for two roundtable sessions to discuss current issues and best practices. We invite you to join our Youth Summit on Thursday, February 25th at Noon EST or our High School Summit on Tuesday, March 2nd at Noon EST. Please use the appropriate link below to register now for free. We look forward to seeing you for these important sessions!
Register: Youth Virtual Summit on Thursday, February 25
Register: High School Virtual Summit on Tuesday, March 2
Volume 20, Issue 23 | February 16, 2021
Taking Action to Address Racism through Sports
Over the last three months, Play Like a Champion hosted a three-part webinar series to explore how sport administrators and coaches can address and combat racism through sports. Uncomfortable Conversations on Race Leading to Understanding, Empathy, Allyship and Kinship draws its inspiration from Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube series (and book) Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and Dr. Maysa Akbar’s book Beyond Ally: The Pursuit of Racial Justice. This picture displays Dr. Akbar’s “Ally Identity Model”, which details the stages of allyship in dismantling systemic oppression (click the image to get a PDF of the model.)
As a Play Like a Champion community, we humbly listen to the stories of racial injustice and seek to become educated on institutional and structural racism that devastates our common humanity. We pledge to become an ally and be intentional in our acts to stand against all racism to eradicate injustice in our local communities to make a collective impact nationally.
The path to Allyship requires action. We invite everyone in the Play Like a Champion community to make a commitment to specific actions that you can take both personally and organizationally to work for equity and inclusion. This worksheet provides a place for you to set actionable goals. Here are some ideas that speakers and attendees generated during the webinar series:
Personal Actions to Address Racism
Actions Your School/Organization Can Take to Address Racism:
What will you DO? What will your organization do?
We will continue this discussion during this summer's Play Like a Champion Sports Leadership Conference, when we will host a session to follow-up and learn how your own "actions" and those suggested above have translated in your community. If you are interested in viewing any of this important webinar series, you can find a recap and view videos of the sessions by clicking here.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ~ Amos 5:24
Models of Virtue: Venerable Pierre Toussaint
Born in 1766 on the island that is now home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Venerable Pierre Toussaint was born into slavery. A young Pierre was taught to read and write by the Bérard family, then whisked away to New York City when the Haitian Revolution threatned slavery and the family's well-being. Toussaint was eventually freed following the death of Madame Bérard in 1811 and became a hero for the Haitian community in New York, providing support for immigrants arriving in the city and raising money for the city's first Catholic school for free black children and the church that would become the Basilica of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral. Upon his death in 1853, Pierre Toussaint and his wife Juliet were buried in that church. They were later transferred to the new St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he became the first layperson to be buried in the crypt under the church's high altar. He was named "venerable" in 1996 by Pope John Paul II. Pierre Toussaint, Pray for Us!
Learn more about Venerable Pierre Toussaint by clicking here!
Actions Your School/Organization Can Take to Address Racism:
Volume 20, Issue 21 | February 2, 2021
Girls & Women in Sport
Tomorrow, February 3, 2021, is National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) powered by the Women’s Sports Foundation. This day is meant to be a celebration of girls and women in sport while providing inspiration for all girls to play, be active and unlock their limitless potential. The 35th anniversary of this event will feature 2021 Girls Fest, streaming live on Wednesday from 4:00 – 5:30pm EST. The event is geared toward empowering elementary, middle and high school girls. Play Like a Champion encourages ALL coaches and athletes to join the celebration! Why not have a zoom watch party with your whole team? There are also local events happening all across the country, click here to see if there is one in your city. But don’t let the significance of this day end tomorrow, keep the conversation with your athletes ongoing.
Here are a few ways you can do that:
At our Virtual 2020 Play Like a Champion conference, we celebrated women leading the charge for equity and inclusion in sport. Check out these short clips from an amazing group of leaders on how to empower female athletes and coaches...
Dr. Nicole Lavoi
Director, Tucker Center for Girls and Women in Sport
What's the best way to recruit female coaches? According to this expert the answer is simple: "Ask them!" Hear what Lavoi has to say about this easy path to getting more women involved in coaching.
Dr. Ramona Cox
Associate Athletic Director, Detroit PAL
How do you provide programs and drills that girls are interested in? Ask them what they want! Along with providing girls an experience they're interested in, Cox makes clear that if we want to include more girls and women in sports, we have to be intentional.
Executive Director, Girls in the Game
Giving girls leadership roles as they grow into middle and high school can be an important avenue to help them develop skills and see their own potential as a coach. As Meghan Morgan points out, it also gives younger girls a model of what a coach looks like.
University of Notre Dame Mascot
Here's a young woman who took an opportunity to show girls that they can be anything they want to be. In 2019, Lynette Wukie became the first female Leprechaun in the history of the University of Notre Dame. Now she has tips for how you can keep girls in the game.
Watch the short videos above and join in the celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day on February 3rd. Then go out and make a difference by creating opportunities for more girls and women to get involved in sports in your community. Your efforts can lead the way in leveling the playing field and inspiring the next generation of athletes and coaches!
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue....“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
~ Proverbs 31:25-26, 29-30
A Prayer for Teams
Loving God, the followers of Jesus were filled with zeal to lead others to Christ. Help us to grow in faith and love, so that we as teammates zealously proclaim the Gospel through our joy in play. Inspire our words and our actions so that others may see our love for you and long to know you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Volume 20, Issue 20 | January 26, 2021
According to Villanova Men's Basketball Coach Jay Wright, there are two kinds of confidence he wants to develop in student-athletes. The first is confidence as an athlete. This is the confidence that comes from knowing that you have prepared yourself to the best of your ability for a practice or game. As Wright points out, this confidence is a matter of effort and attitude, rather than results. The second kind of confidence is about who you are as a person. It's important that athletes remember you are more than what you do in your sport. What really matters is how you live your life, who you are as a person, teammate, student, family member and friend. If you can be confident in who you are as a person, you should feel good about yourself whether or not you succeed in competition.
Watch the video above to learn more about what Wright says about confidence, then ask yourself the following questions:
Wright's message is clear: whether or not you succeed in a given competition does not define who you are as a person. Real confidence comes from preparing to the best of your ability and being the kind of person that makes the world around them a better place. Athletes should strive to develop these two kinds of confidence each day. In the end, that's the kind of confidence that matters.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
~ Proverbs 3:5-8
Nominate a Champion Coach of the Week!
Attention Athletes: Do you have an amazing coach? A coach who is the ideal model for what it means to be a champion both on and off the field? Each week Play Like a Champion honors a Champion Coach of the Week, sharing that person's story on social media and on our website. If your coach deserves to be honored, we want to hear from you! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your coach's name, contact information and why he or she deserves to be recognized as a Champion Coach. Make sure to let us know your school and sport while providing as much information as you can about what makes your coach great. We'll evaluate nominees and honor coaches each Thursday throughout the school year. Send us an email now and your coach may be the next to appear!
An Athlete's Prayer
My significance cannot be measured by the glory of my athletic accomplishments, but is measured by the love and compassion I have shown to others every day of my life... without fame or glory or thanks, just in the name of love. May all the little things we do for one another count as the most significant thing we do in our lifetime. Amen.
Adapted from poem by Mi Sun Ellis
Volume 20, Issue 19 | January 19, 2021
The ability to adapt to game situations and environments has long been an important skill that coaches seek to develop in young athletes. To succeed in competition, it's critical that athletes are able to adjust their strategy and approach, even in the midst of a single play. Yet how often do coaches evaluate their own ability to adapt? Whether shifting tactics during a game, changing the way you communicate to better reach your athletes, or solving a problem you never saw coming (such as a pandemic), the best coaches are frequently those who show outstanding adaptability skills. What are these skills and how does a coach improve?
We're glad you asked.
Adaptability skills are often discussed in the business world as the skills needed by individuals and businesses to adapt to changing conditions and environments. Those with better skills in this area are able to make good decisions and adjust quickly when presented with changes or problems, while others may struggle to either make the correct decision or to do so efficiently. The same is true of coaches, but not just when it comes to X's and O's. We all know that if a coach fails to adapt game strategy to a change in conditions (ex. the starting point guard is injured) the team is likely to suffer. Still, other adaptability skills may prove even more crucial when it comes to developing athletes and getting the most out of your youth or high school team. Here's a few areas to consider:
Chances are good you've had to adapt in many ways over the past year, as COVID-19 has forced a number of changes to sports and created new challenges for organizations, coaches and athletes. As the world moves into 2021 and beyond, many experts believe that the speed at which the world around us changes will continue to increase. Whether that means adjusting to the latest technology, changing the way we communicate with athletes, or simply dealing with injuries to one of your athletes, having strong adaptability skills will remain a key trait in the best coaches.
As a coach or administrator, examine the past year and evaluate your own adaptability skills, particularly in the areas addressed above. Consider any strengths and weaknesses, then commit to improving these skills in the year ahead. Doing so will help both you and your athletes to reach your potential in 2021.
For I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
~ Philippeans 4:11-13
As 2021 begins and the pandemic rages on, coaches are likely fatigued, even aggravated and probably running out of creativity to engage their team. Yet, our athletes still desperately need us since as youth and adolescents, they are less likely able to regulate their emotions.
Author Lisa M. Schab, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with a private counseling practice in the greater Chicago area. She has authored eighteen self-help books and workbooks for children, teens, and adults, including the guided journals, Put Your Worries Here and Put Your Feelings Here.
Lisa advises, "If you’re looking for a boost or a mini-break and your own journal’s already maxed out with emotional free writing, this free e-journal, Put Your Pandemic Stress Here, can help provide a new slant and even a smile. These guided journaling prompts are evidence-based, and designed to help you find gratitude, self-soothing, creative distraction, and positive change. Give them a try for a little relief and some much-needed fun!"
We thought this journal provides a creative team building activity. Thank you Lisa for sharing this resource with our Champion community.
Find out more at www.lisamschabooks.com.
A Coach's Prayer
This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. But what I do today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place that which I have traded. I want it to be gain not loss, good not evil, success not failure. I know I shall not regret the price I have paid for it because the future is just a whole string of now’s! Lord, help me to live this day according to your will.
Volume 20, Issue 18 | January 12, 2021
Positive Sports Parenting
If you know Dick Vitale, it's likely from his Emmy award winning career as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, as his passion and enthusiasm practically leap out of the television into viewers homes. Given this energetic persona, one might presume to know what he was like as a sports parent as well. Yet the former coach is far more measured when it comes to discussing his role as parent (and grandparent) to some high level student-athletes. In the short video above, Vitale talks about the importance of positive sports parenting and the need to have perspective.
As sports parents, the most important thing we can do is be a positive, supportive influence in the lives of our young athletes. Whether picking them up from practice or cheering them on in the stands, it's our job to help keep things fun while letting them know we're their biggest fan. As Vitale points out, the life of an athlete can be difficult; injuries, losses and mistakes can all lead to disappointment. As sports parents, we can support our young athletes by staying positive, encouraging them to give their best effort, and letting them know we'll be there no matter what.
It's been said that the most important thing an athlete needs to hear from a parent is "I love watching you play." As sports parents, let's leave X's and O's to the coach and embrace our role as positive sports parents. Our kids will be glad we did.
"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." ~ 1 John 3:1-2
Webinar Series Resumes Wednesday
Play Like a Champion's webinar series Uncomfortable Conversations on Race Leading to Understanding, Empathy, Allyship and Kinship continues Wednesday, January 13th with the second installment in this crucial series. Attendees do not need to have attended the first session to benefit from this week's engaging presentation and discussion on the ways we can educate administrators, coaches and athletes on racism while taking steps to eradicate injustice. Join keynote speakers Anthony Thomas, Athletic Director at Francis Parker High School and Joyce Jones, Director of the Office of Racial Harmony for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, as they lead attendees through this important conversation. The webinar takes place on Wednesday, January 13th at 6:00-7:30 pm EST and we invite you to register below to join the session.
Register HERE for Uncomfortable Conversations Webinar Series
Pandemic Parenting Guidance and Support
While we are talking about excellent webinars, here is another very interesting opportunity this week. Pandemic Parenting's goal is to share science-based research to help all who care for kids navigate this challenging time. They are offering a free upcoming webinar, Losing Seasons: Coping with Cancelled Youth Sports and Activities on Thursday, January 14 at 9pm EST.
As parents and caregivers, how do we keep our children active, healthy, and strong, while helping them (and us) mourn the loss of the activities that help them thrive? The webinar will discuss ways to tackle these issues and help children cope physically and mentally so that everyone "wins."
Reserve your Spot Here!
Volume 20, Issue 17 | January 5, 2021
Building Team Culture
A great team culture is one of the most significant components of building a Champion athletic program. It's crucial that coaches set clear expectations for what a team stands for, from team values to how athletes are expected to act both on and off the field.
Lou Holtz knows a thing or two about building a great culture. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, he is the only coach in history to take six different programs to a bowl game, with a record four different programs finishing in the Top 20 in year-end rankings. In the video above, Holtz shares his thoughts on building team culture, as well as his three team rules:
Do What's Right
Do Everything to the Best of Your Ability
Show People You Care
Holtz used these three rules to build Champion programs and so can you. As we enter the new year, take a moment to evaluate your team culture and determine a few ways you can improve that culture in 2021. Have you outlined core values with your team? Do student-athletes understand what's expected of them during practice, in the classroom, or outside the school walls? Have you spent time building relationships between coaches, teammates and even the parents who support your team? Do you really LOVE your athletes and how do you show them this care and concern? Set a goal to improve any area you have identified as a weakness in the coming year. By building a better team culture, you'll be on your way to developing Champions in 2021.
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." ~ Colossians 3:17
St. Mary's Halo Award Initiative
It is important to celebrate your athletes for their positive displays of character and virtue. St. Mary's High School in Annapolis created the Halo Award, an honor given to a student-athlete that “demonstrates excellence and teamwork and goes above and beyond expectations.” To the right is a picture of the Halo Award, which is a coin.
Here are examples of students who have received a HALO Award:
Charlotte: Senior, Field Hockey, Track & Lacrosse. Workouts were optional, yet Charlotte had perfect attendance all summer and fall, coming ready to work hard at every session. She inspires her teammates with her work ethic and dedication to improvement. Charlotte was presented the HALO by the Coach who ran the workout sessions.
Logan: Senior, Baseball, Leader of Champs and a Member of SAIL.
Logan organized a Champs service project for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Logan worked with the St. Mary's administration on planning an out-of-uniform week for students and organizing the donations to CBF. He communicated with all homerooms, organized donations and worked with CBF on all of the details. Among the first service projects of the year, the project was flawless. This project inspired others and created a sense of normalcy this school year. Logan was presented the HALO by Allison Fondale, Athletic Director.
McKenzie: Junior, Field Hockey and Lacrosse.
McKenzie was recovering from an injury in a prior field hockey game. When attending her team's game she overheard there was not a game day official to cover the scoreboard. Though she had never worked in a press box, she immediately volunteered knowing she would not be able to be on the sidelines with her team. McKenzie did a great job and the game went smoothly. McKenzie then insisted that she work the varsity game also as it was a way for her to support the senior class on senior night, giving back to a group of girls that meant a lot to her. McKenzie was presented the HALO by Allison Fondale, Athletic Director at lunch in front of half of the student body who began cheering for her! A fun moment for sure!
What do you do to celebrate your athletes' displays of virtue?
A Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to play, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us. Amen.
St. Teresa of Avila was a Spanish Carmelite nun who lived from 1515-1582. A mystic and Doctor of the Church, Teresa experienced profound visions from God and is credited with a major role in the renewal of the Church and the Carmelite religious order. She is the patron saint of headache sufferers.
As we approach the end of the year, our team at Play Like a Champion wishes everyone in our national community a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year! We are grateful for the many coaches, administrators, parents and leaders who have spent so much time in the past year working to provide a positive experience for young athletes, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Thank you for your dedication, your leadership and your support of the Play Like a Champion mission.
Here's wishing each of you and your families health and happiness this Christmas. May you experience the joy of this season and be filled with hope as we look toward 2021. We look forward to working with you in the new year!
Volume 20, Issue 16 | December 15, 2020
Gratitude: 'Tis the Season to
Pay it Forward
Wait a minute! Didn’t we have a note on gratitude just a few weeks ago? Yes, and there have been others before that. But this note is different.
Previous notes have focused on the benefits of gratitude to the athlete who takes the time to think about the things they are grateful for. This note extends the idea one step further – how athletes can pay gratitude forward, giving others the same experience of gratitude that they experience on a daily basis. You know, as it says in the Bible:
...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. – Luke 12:48
Yeah, OK. But haven’t you heard? Most of us are in lockdown or quarantine. Not a lot to be grateful for lately that I can see. And not a lot we can do right now. Wouldn’t you agree?
Definitely not! Besides, great athletes thrive on challenges. Tell them they can’t do something, and they’ll make it their mission to prove you wrong. OK. So, what is it that young athletes can do to pay their gratitude forward?
I thought you’d never ask! Here are several things athletes can do individually or as a team to pass gratitude along this holiday season:
Volunteer – Yes, volunteering may be a little more challenging during a pandemic and quarantine, but not impossible. Food pantries need non-perishable food and household items as record numbers of people have been laid off and lost jobs due to COVID-19. Likewise shelters serving women and children are ALWAYS in need of diapers and other baby items. Animal shelters constantly need food, toys and cleaning items to care for the animals rescued from certain destruction.
One of the most frustrating parts of adolescence for parents is the rate at which middle & high school kids grow. That often means that clothes are obsolete long before becoming worn out. So, why not pass gently used, too small clothing items along to the Salvation Army or your local homeless shelters?
And of course, with the holidays rapidly approaching, various toy drives will be in need of donations, perhaps this year more than ever. There’s very likely a Police Athletic League or equivalent that would gladly take outgrown sports equipment for use by less fortunate athletes when this COVID mess is over and done with.
Those may be some good ideas, but they’re telling us to stay home, so I don’t see us doing any of those TBH.
Young athletes can volunteer to make dinner, do laundry, help a sibling with homework and pay it forward without ever leaving their homes. And at the very least, they can change the world by making their bed every day (See video: Navy Seal Admiral Shares Reasons to Make Bed Everyday).
Send Gratitude Texts or Email – Make time to periodically send a quick text (or email) to a friend, teammate, coach or family member letting them know how much they mean to you or inspire you in some way. Be specific if you can (e.g., “Seeing how hard you work every practice, inspires me to work harder myself. Thanks!”).
Record Gratitude Messages on Zoom – You can also use other social media platforms or just use the recording feature on your smart phone. This can be particularly beneficial for elderly family members or those living in other parts of the country, to let them know that you are thinking of them during these difficult times.
Remember those Often Overlooked – It takes a lot of people to keep a youth or school athletic program functioning, you can use any of the methods listed above, doing your best to include folks who drive the busses to away games, people who run the concessions, members of your booster club, those who keep the gyms and locker rooms clean, etc.
Work with a Gratitude Partner – They say two heads are better than one. Partner up with a friend or teammate to split the workload, but more importantly to brainstorm other great ideas for spreading your gratitude to deserving others.
Be Grateful for Your Competitors – The ancient Greek philosopher, Anonymous, was quoted as saying, “We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.” Consider expressing gratitude to competitors – players, coaches, fans, etc. – that displayed hospitality, sportsmanship, or just played hard and fair against you, pushing you to play better.
Let someone know How They Inspired You – If you aren’t able to do any of the above for some reason, you can always go up to someone at a social distance, online, or in writing and let them know how they have inspired you in some way. And if that doesn’t work for you, take the advice of Country & Western legend, Dolly Parton, who advises, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours!”
OK! I get it! Even in these difficult times when much of youth sports has temporarily been snatched away by an enemy we can’t even see, and life as we enjoyed it has been turned upside down, there’s still much to be grateful for. What an Important Lesson!
And by the way, we at Play Like a Champion Today are grateful for all our partners, athletes, parents, contributors, and casual readers. May you all have a joyous and safe holiday season. Here’s praying for sports to start up again, safely and soon!
Sacred Spaces in Sports
We loved this video from Faith ND of a collegiate athlete with a prosthetic leg who shares his gratitude for access to resources to be his best. "What defines us is how we respond to our challenges in life."
Volume 20, Issue 15 | December 8, 2020
The Need for Coach and Parent Education in Sports
At Play Like a Champion, we believe in providing children with the best possible youth sports experience, one that makes their physical, mental, moral and spiritual development a priority. To create the right environment for sports, it's critical that coaches and parents receive training that provides them with the information and tools they need to support this whole development. Unfortunately, recent research shows that less than 1/3 of coaches are properly trained* and most parents never receive training in how to be a more effective sports parent. Since 2006, Play Like a Champion has trained more than 130,000 coaches and parents through a community of more than 230 partners. Through our A Team for Every Child initiative (see video above) we collaborate with economically disadvantaged communities to establish athletic associations and provide training & resources that enable all children to have the opportunity to play sports. These efforts have assured that more than 1 million children have the support they need to have a fun, developmentally appropriate sports experience at the youth and high school levels. If you are getting this email, you and your children have benefited from this education.
Now we need your help. With youth sports canceled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Play Like a Champion's income from programming is down 80%. What's more, our partners in inner-city neighborhoods have been especially hard-hit. Young people are missing out on opportunities to play sports and those who are playing do so with coaches who need tools and training to provide the experience they deserve. We need your support so that we can continue to support our partners in communities across the country.
Tomorrow, on Wednesday, December 9th, Play Like a Champion is hosting a special virtual event beginning at 7:00pm EST. A Team for Every Child Showcase will feature partner coaches and their student athletes as well as special guests such as NFL Hall of Famer & Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, Homeboy Industries founder Fr. Greg Boyle, Natalie Achonwa of the WNBA's Indiana Fever, & former Notre Dame & NFL running back Randy Kinder. Proceeds from the event will go to support Play Like a Champion's mission to provide A Team for Every Child as well as directly support partner programs in these areas. You can register to attend this free virtual event by clicking here.
If you are unable to attend, we ask you to consider a tax-deductible contribution to our mission using the link below. Now more than ever, we are dependent on the generosity of those who share our vision. Please donate to support Play Like a Champion and help secure the future of these programs that have helped so many.
Donate Now: Support Play Like a Champion's Mission
*Report from Project Play & the Susan Crown Exchange
The Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church 490
Join Us for a Webinar on Fighting Racism in Youth & High School Sports
As America has become more aware of issues of injustice and systemic racism over the past months, Play Like a Champion believes that youth and high school sports can play a pivotal role in bringing about both healing and change. We invite our community coaches and administrators to listen, to become educated and to take concrete steps to combat racism and create a safe environment within sports programs that allows all children to thrive. How can do we do this? Beginning on December 16th at 6:00-7:30 pm EST, Play Like a Champion will host Uncomfortable Conversations on Race Leading to Understanding, Empathy, Allyship and Kinship, a three part webinar series exploring the topic of race with a visionary panel dedicated to this critical cause. The second webinar will take place on January 13th and the series will culminiate during Black History Month on February 10th with a call for partners to enact change in local communities. The conversation will continue at Play Like a Champion's Sports Leadership Conference in June, as participants report local outcomes.
The webinars are free to attend. Click the link below to register now and join us for these important conversations.
Register Now to Attend this Important Webinar Series
Team Reflections for the Rosary
Today marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation* in the Catholic Church. The feast celebrates Mary being conceived without sin, so that she might be "enriched by God with gifts appropriate" to bear Christ in her womb (CCC 490). As we honor Mary on this day and seek to imitate her example, we recall that she can be a powerful intercessor for coaches, athletes and teams. Play Like a Champion offers sports-themed reflections on the Mysteries of the Rosary as a powerful team prayer. Use the example below and click here to access more of these reflections online!
*Dispensations due to COVID-19 have removed this obligation in many places for 2020.
The JOYFUL MYSTERIES of the Holy Rosary
Prayed on Mondays, Saturdays, Sundays of Advent; Sundays of Epiphany through Lent
The Annunciation of Gabriel to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Reflection: Remember a time you received news that filled you with anxiety. Perhaps your coach called you into a game at a critical time or when you learned you would be facing your toughest opponent in the play-off’s. Believe that God is standing with you in the uncertainty and fear. Have the courage like Mary to say “Yes” to these difficult invitations, despite your fear.
Volume 20, Issue 14 | December 1, 2020
Kinship, Sports and COVID-19
Play Like a Champion believes in the power of community and the importance of building relationships through sport. We know that by working together as a team, a school, and a national Play Like a Champion group of coaches and administrators, we impact the lives of countless children. Kinship takes this experience a step further, calling us to develop transformational relationships that move beyond the field of play and reflect a genuine care for every person, especially those on the margins.
As Dr. Clark Power explains in the video above, developing kinship in sports begins with listening to our athletes, then responding to provide the experience they desire. When we approach sports from this perspective, we learn that coaching is far more than developing skill or maximizing performance, it's about caring for the young men and women we coach. Coaches need to recognize how much the children on our teams look to us to "raise them up". In the context of the current pandemic, kinship also means we consider how our team culture - and the culture of youth sports as a whole - provides for the needs of all the children in our community, many of whom are desperately currently missing the connection and development that sports offer.
Through kinship, we can work to overcome the fear and hardship that many of our young athletes have experienced as a result of COVID-19 and social injustices. During this Chrismas season, let us consider how we can provide a "Christmas for Every Child" on our teams and reach out to support the most vulnerable children in our society.
"Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.." ~ Hebrews 10:24-25
A Prayers for Coaches
God, grant me the insight to see the potential in every player; Patience to encourage improvement; and character to always set a winning example.
May those I coach always see You in my life, and be brought closer to You through me. In your precious name, I pray. Amen.
2020 delivered a gut-punch.
With youth sports cancelled, Play Like a Champion’s income from programming is down 80%.
Now WE need YOU so that we can continue supporting our partners and creating A Team for Every Child in communities across the country. We are relying on your generosity more than ever this year.
Donate now to Support Play Like a Champion Today
In addition, on December 9, from 7:00-8:00PM Eastern, we are hosting the A Team for Every Child Showcase: a virtual fundraising event celebrating the inspiring work of our partner programs in the North Lawndale and South Bend neighborhoods. Please join us to hear how the spirit of kinship is working through our collective effort in the athletic associations we have developed in both communities.
Hear from caring coaches and their athletes as well as special guests Fr. Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries and NFL Hall of Famer and Heisman trophy winner Tim Brown.
The gifts Play Like a Champion receives during the Showcase will be shared equally with our partner associations in North Lawndale and South Bend.
Reserve Your Place for this Special Evening Showcase
Our A Team for Every Child associations increased their community impact despite the challenges of poverty, racial inequity, violence and Covid-19. The North Lawndale Athletic and Recreation Association (NLARA), completed its third year of operations, creatively increasing its service not only in youth sports programming but also providing food, computers and sports equipment to families in the community. The Michiana Athletic and Recreation Association (MARA) completed its first year of operations and is collaborating with the schools, parks and community organizations in South Bend to expand its reach in the community.
Your donation enables Play Like a Champion to continue our services:
We are providing hope and possibility for our country's children and we need your help to continue our life-changing work.
Visit the A Team for Every Child Website
Play Like a Champion Today
www.playlikeachampion.org | email@example.com
Volume 20, Issue 13 | November 24, 2020
An Attitude of Gratitude
Quick, think of three things for which you are grateful!
This may be a difficult request. 2020 has been a year unlike any other as we endure the challenges of a global pandemic and racial unrest. We have all experienced disappointment, loss and even tragedy. Why should we focus on being grateful, and how can we do this?
One of the first things your parents likely taught you when you were small is to say, “Thank you.” Think of the countless times your parents said “what do you say?…” to prompt you to utter these words when you were a child. What’s the difference between being thankful and grateful? And how can that translate to help you build a strong team culture?
According to research, practicing gratitude has benefits that go beyond being a polite kid. Studies show that people who practice gratitude feel 25% happier, are more likely to be kind and helpful to others, are more enthusiastic, interested and determined, and even sleep better. Kids and teens who regularly practice gratitude get higher grades, are more satisfied with their lives, are more integrated socially and show fewer signs of depression. Research within sport has identified a relationship between gratitude amongst adolescent athletes and increased team satisfaction, less athlete burnout, and greater overall well-being.
But what exactly do we mean by gratitude? According to Greg Chertok, M.Ed., CC-AASP, a sport psychology counselor, fitness trainer and member of the American College of Sports Medicine, gratitude can be defined as “an estimate of gain coupled with the judgment that someone else is responsible for that gain.” Estimating and appreciating gain (performing well; recognizing physical improvements in strength or endurance) and identifying that other people were involved in making it happen, are important steps towards feeling grateful. In other words, you can be thankful that you did well on an exam, and you should be grateful to your study partners (teammates) for helping prepare you to do well.
So how can athletes practice gratitude in meaningful ways so that you learn what it means to be thankful and grateful? Here are a few ideas for you and your team:
Here’s a great example Chertok shares in his article. One of the greatest Olympians of all-time, Carl Lewis notes in his autobiography Inside Track: Carl Lewis Biography that feeling grateful to his competitors became part of his pre-competition routine. He wrote that, without opponents, he could not have been personally challenged to the extent that he was with opponents. He could not have experienced victory without opponents. There would be no gold medals without opponents. Lewis chose to embrace the presence of his competitors as required figures in his quest for performance excellence. It was an attitudinal shift that served him well.
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, take time to be thankful for food, shelter, friendship, education, safety and the joy of sports. Even if you are not able to play right now, eventually we will joyfully compete again. Play Like a Champion encourages athletes to adopt an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE this Thanksgiving week and through the rest of this year. We know times are tumultuous. Expressing gratitude is an important practice that helps us endure difficulty and stay rooted in Christ.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Play Like a Champion recognized by President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition as a NYSS Champion
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pleased to recognize Play Like a Champion Today as a National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS) Champion. The NYSS, released in September 2019, calls for a national strategy to increase youth sports participation. As a NYSS Champion, Play Like a Champion Today has demonstrated their organization's support of youth sports and commitment to the NYSS vision. Play Like a Champion Today is recognized along with other NYSS Champions on health.gov as part of a growing network of organizations partnering with HHS to improve the youth sports landscape in America. “We know children who obtain regular physical activity gain important physical and mental health benefits, which are more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains ADM Brett Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS. “I’m thrilled to acknowledge the work of the NYSS Champions who are furthering the mission of the NYSS and helping to foster a lifelong love of sports and physical activity for our Nation’s youth.”
Play Like a Champion’s Executive Director, Dr. Clark Power comments, “Play Like a Champion understands the total value of youth sports as well as the challenges that surround the current sport climate. Our organization is perfectly aligned with the NYSS mission to work toward an environment in which all youth have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code. We pledge to work together collaboratively with other national organizations united to reach the common goal of creating A Team for Every Child.
Read More About This Recognition By Clicking Here!
We loved this ESPN video celebrating the sacredness that sports brings to our world. During this week of Thanksgiving, our Play Like a Champion community is grateful for the sacred spaces of fields, courts, rinks, pools all across the country that provide a place for our children to grow, to excel, to experience the divine through their play.
Play Like a Champion's "Daily Prayers for Champions" page has been updated! Visit www.playlikeachampion.org/prayer for more than 200 prayers plus resources that can help you and your team grow closer to God while participating in sports.
PO Box 72, Notre Dame, IN 46556 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 20, Issue 12 | November 17, 2020
Uniting Communities Through Uncomfortable Conversations: Building Understanding, Empathy, Allyship and Kinship
Special thanks to this week's guest author Anthony Thomas, Director of Athletics at Francis Parker High School in San Diego, CA.
The late great John Lewis once said, “We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.” Athletics has the inherent ability to bring a community together; however, recent events in our country have highlighted a greater need for dialogue and understanding. So the time is truly calling us to recognize the needs of our communities, while understanding that our individual communities may be in different places. So we must go where our people are and we must engage them in the uncomfortable conversations despite the challenges it may bring. It takes bold, intentional leadership to engage in this work. This work is not easy and we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We must all look inside each other’s heart and commit to reexamining our WHY, and living in our true PURPOSE. You get what you expect, so engaging in these uncomfortable conversations will lead you to a greater understanding of who we want to be.
Difficult conversations can be on many topics, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and even politics. All these things can tear at the fabric of a team or community. In his book Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence, Derald Wing Sue has found that honest race talk is one of the most powerful means to dispel stereotypes and biases, to increase racial literacy and critical consciousness about race issues, to decrease fear of differences, to broaden one’s horizons, to increase compassion and empathy, to increase appreciation of all colors and cultures, and to enhance a greater sense of belonging and connectedness. While this is particular to race, I will argue that the outcomes are what we all should all aspire to achieve with whatever topic that we find difficult or uncomfortable.
Having these uncomfortable conversations should lead to a greater empathy, when we lean into discomfort, as Emmanual Acho describes in his series, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, “we build proximity that breeds care about one another.” While not having these uncomfortable conversations, “will keep us distant and will breed fear and misunderstanding.” The goal is to build an allyship, but it cannot stop there. Allyship cannot be performative or only done when we are comfortable. Allies must stand out and speak out whenever they see injustice. When that happens then allyship can ultimately lead to kinship, where we then will find the better angels in each other.
Coaches are leaders in our community and play an important role in leading these difficult conversations. Here are some things to consider when you engage your community.
Anthony E. Thomas, CAA
Member, NIAAA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ad-Hoc Committee
Director of Athletics, Francis Parker School, San Diego, CA
Hear more from Anthony on this week's episode of The Play Like a Champion Show podcast. Anthony will join the show to discuss the issues above as well as his work at Francis Parker School and NOMAD. Click here to access the show and subscribe on your favorite podcasting app.
NOMAD Promotes Diversity, Provides Resources for Secondary AD's
The National Organization of Minority Athletic Directors (NOMAD) is a professional organization that "supports and develops minority and underrepresented athletic directors in secondary schools." The organization provides resources, promotes networking and offers leadership development in an effort to increase opportunities and address the needs of minority and underrepresented athletic directors. In addition to promoting diversity and inclusion, the organization looks to encourage others to have difficult conversations about race and to build alliances and maximize the impact of members' work. Learn more about this tremendous organization by clicking the link below!
Visit the Website to Learn More About NOMAD
For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ~ Romans 12:4-8
New Award Honors "Champion" Coaches
Play Like a Champion is proud to work with an outstanding group of coaches who make an incredible impact with children in their communities. Now, a new award will recognize these selfless men and women, who dedicate countless hours to working with young people at the youth and high school levels, using sports as an avenue to develop children physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and morally. We are excited to announce the Champion Coach of the Week Award, a new initiative by Play Like a Champion that will recognize coaches who embody what it means to be a champion. Each week we will celebrate a different coach, highlighting the contributions he or she makes in the community and honoring the coach through social media and a "virtual plaque" on a new website dedicated to the award. Click the link below to see our inaugural honorees and learn more about the award. Do you know a great coach who deserves to be recognized? Send us an email at email@example.com with a short paragraph that tells us who that coach is and why they should be considered a Champion Coach. We'll select a new coach to honor each week!
Read About Our Inaugural Coach of the Week Honorees
A Coach's Prayer of Thanksgiving
Lord, thank you for this opportunity to coach these children. Thank you for bestowing on me this great responsibility, and for entrusting your children to me. May I never lose sight of the blessing this is, nor take for granted the time I spend with them. Help me to recognize the role I have, in shaping them not just as athletes, but as children of God. Under my care, may they grow in skill, but also in faith and virtue. Father in Heaven, Grant that I may have a positive and grateful attitude in all my work with these children. May my words and actions convey how much I care. I ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Volume 20, Issue 11 | November 10, 2020
Officiating may be the most difficult job in youth and high school sports. While we acknowledge that both coaches and young athletes frequently make mistakes, nearly every decision by an official is regularly scrutinized by the parents, coaches and athletes involved in a game. Even though any review of film or overall performance suggests that officials are most often correct, they are often questioned and sometimes verbally assaulted for playing their part in an athletic contest. For many officials, it's simply not worth the trouble. So it should be no surprise that the number of officials is decreasing rapidly, resulting in a shortage in youth and high school sports across the country. The impact of this decrease is already being felt in a very real way, as schools and organizations across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to schedule games. Unfortunately, the current pandemic may be making matters even worse.
The truth is, officials play a critical role in youth and high school sports. We need officials to provide competition for our kids that is fair and organized, to make the calls that help young athletes to learn the rules and recognize their mistakes so that they can grow.
Play Like a Champion is committed to finding solutions to this problem. As part of our annual webinar series, we sat down with retired NFL Official and current ESPN Analyst John Parry to consider ideas for increasing the number of officials. A veteran of three Super Bowls, Parry provides several innovative solutions in the video above. He's joined by Dr. David Pierce, the Director of IUPUI's Sports Innovation Institute, who last spring tackled the officiating problem with a unique approach.
Parents can be part of this solution. Watch the video highlights of our conversation and consider how you can help increase the number of officials involved in your local leagues:
It's important that administrators, coaches and parents all work together to create a positive environment for officials and develop sustainable solutions to the current shortage that threatens our childrens' games. Doing so will assure that future generations can continue to learn and compete in the games they love.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25
Virtual Clinics & Workshops Offer Unique Training Opportunities During Pandemic
With sports continuing to return to communities and schools across the country this fall, Play Like a Champion has been back at work with coaches and parents, presenting our Coaching as Ministry Clinics and Parent Like a Champion Workshops across the country... with a twist. While the pandemic continues to curb travel and restrict large gatherings, we've taken our clinics virtual for a limited time. Now, more people than ever can experience Play Like a Champion presentations in a format that allows participants easy access from the comfort of their home. We've learned a few tricks to make our virtual option as interactive as possible, allowing our expert trainers to educate coaches and parents as you prepare to return to the field. Interested in learning more or scheduling a virtual training as you plan for winter or spring seasons? Call 574-250-6424 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us as we continue to transform the culture of sports and return to play stronger than ever!
Lord, give me the eyes to see you in my children,
your heart to love them and your gentleness to help them grow. Give me your wisdom to guide them and your strength when I need to let them go.
Volume 20, Issue 10 | November 3, 2020
Youth sports have an officiating problem. To be clear, the problem is not what you may think: the vast majority of officials actually do their jobs quite well. The problem is that officials at the youth sports and high school level are quitting in record numbers, creating a shortage of officials that threatens competition across the country. For many officials, the verbal abuse they face from coaches, spectators and athletes simply isn't worth the trouble. Others are simply hanging it up after long careers in officiating, with nobody entering the arena to take up their position. The Aspen Institute recently reported that there are more officials over 60 years old than under 30, while the NFHS says that nearly 80% of high school officials quit before their third year. Everywhere one looks, the number of officials is decreasing and the impact is already being felt in a very real way. Over the past year, schools and organizations across the country found it increasingly difficult to schedule games, particularly at the Junior Varsity levels and below. What's more, the current pandemic may be making matters even worse. If we don't act quickly, there simply won't be anyone available to officiate our kids games.
Coaches are an important part of the solution to the shortage of officials. Here's how you can help create an environment that promotes an increase in officials:
As the shortage of officials forces leagues to limit competition or cancel games, it's critical that coaches and administrators become part of the solution to this problem. Consider the steps above and look forward to next week's Champion Parent Note, which will feature innovative ways to increase officials from veteran Super Bowl official and ESPN analyst John Parry.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many... The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-23
Podcast Features Interviews with Sports Leaders, Hall of Fame Guests
The Play Like a Champion Show welcomed a familiar face this past week, as former Notre Dame Women's Basketball coach Muffet McGraw joined the podcast to talk about her legendary career in coaching, the state of youth sports, and more. McGraw is just the latest in a terrific lineup of guests that includes coaches, administrators, experts and personalities who are transforming sports at the youth and high school level. Each episode promises to educate and entertain, while providing concrete ideas to help you maximize your own performance as a coach, athlete or leader in sports.
Click below to listen to previous episodes or search Play Like a Champion Show in your favorite podcast app. Subscribe for free and you can be the first to hear this week's interview with Jamyle Cannon. The former collegiate boxing champion and CNN Hero is changing lives as the founder of The Bloc in Chicago. Cannon has practical tips for working with young athletes and great advice for coaches. New episodes drop in time for your Friday commute!
Subscribe & Listen to the Play Like a Champion Show
A Prayer for Coaches
Thank you Lord for all the gifts that coaching young people provides to me. Thank you for the energy and joy of young athletes as they learn and grow as part of my team. When my team has success, help me to not boast about our accomplishments in your service. Help me to remember that all good we do is due to your help, grace, and inspiration. Let us be aware of your assistance on our team in providing us with desire, drive, courage, and hope. Help me to be at peace with my team and my coaching, dedicating all I do and all our team does to play for God’s glory. Amen.
Volume 20, Issue 9 | October 27, 2020
Take Ownership & Play with Pride
Core values are the foundation for all great teams. Commonly defined as the beliefs or principals that guide the behavior of a group, core values tell the world what matters to your team while serving as a constant reminder to athletes and coaches how the team will measure success. Often, these core values promote themes such as attitude, effort, respect for teammates, or other virtues important to developing as athletes and persons. They provide a way to focus a team on what's important and an important standard that all members of the team are expected to uphold.
With two national championships in the past four seasons, the Villanova men's basketball program is one of the very best in the nation. So you can be sure they have a set of core values that are the foundation of their team. However, it's not the coaches who are primarily responsible for upholding these values, but rather the athletes. As Head Coach Jay Wright explains in the video above, it's up to the athletes on a team to take ownership and maintain core values. In particular, Wright notes that older members of the team should take pride in the team and embrace the responsbility of teaching younger team members about the team's values. Having sent several players to the NBA, Wright is quick to remind them that on a team, "everyone's role is different, but everyone's status is the same."
What are your team's core values? If these aren't already established by your coach, ask if you can take the lead and work with other members of the team to create them. Once established, return to these values frequently and use them to evaluate your performance as individuals and a team following practices and games. Doing so will develop a team identity and create habits that will help you to grow into Champions.
He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. ~ Matthew 23:11-12
Creating a Captain's Council
Last week's Champion Coach Note discussed selecting and developing team captains for coaches. Athletes can also play an important part in developing the role that captains play by understanding this important position and considering how to increase the effectiveness of captains with the team and in the school. One of the ways that Play Like a Champion encourages partners to do this is to create a Captain's Council. This unique group involves getting team captains together as a group on a regular basis to meet with school leadership, who provide the athletes with a platform to discuss issues, develop leadership skills, and enable teams to work together effectively. The video above details an example from St. Mary's High School in Annapolis, Maryland; they named their council S.A.I.L. which stands for Student Athletes in Leadership.
If your school does not have a Captain's Council, talk to your coach and athletic director about creating one. Play Like a Champion is happy to help you setup the group and provide resources. Email us at email@example.com and we can work together to create this opportunity at your school!
Sport Mysteries of the Rosary
The month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. Play Like a Champion provides a resource for teams to participate in praying the Rosary with Athletic Reflections. You can download the entire resource here: Play Like a Champion Sport Mysteries of the Rosary
Here is one example that reflects on Team Culture: From the Joyful Mysteries, 3rd Decade, The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 1-21)
"Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." (2:7)
Reflection: Pope Francis reminds us that sports should be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and contribute to peace in the world. Together with your team, praise God for the opportunity to play sport and make a commitment to create a team culture that is positive, joyful and contributes peace to all whom you encounter.
Volume 20, Issue 8 | October 20, 2020
Oh Captain, My Captain
The phrase, “Every team needs a leader,” is not just a tired sports cliché, but something that has been demonstrated by research, according to Sport Coach UK Research Summery No.4 – Developing Team Captains.
Sports Coach UK says that only 30% of leadership is hereditarily based, giving credence to the famous quote by Vince Lombardi, "Leaders are made, not born."
So, how much time do you currently spend developing the leadership skills of your captain(s)? The Sport Coach UK research summary presents several ideas for developing leadership skills in captains based on interviews with identified experts in the field.
Here are some major learning points covered in the research summary:
Gould, Voelker, and Griffe (The Sport Psychologist, 2013, 27, 13-26) in their research on Best Coaching Practices for Developing Team Captains, identify seven common mistakes coaches make in selecting and developing team captains:
How well does your current captain selection and development process measure up? See below how one Play Like a Champion Partner School engages in a best practice for their captains.
Scripture of the Week:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Create a Captain's Council
Play Like a Champion encourages partners to create a Captain's Council. This involves getting your captains together monthly to discuss their leadership role on their teams, provide them with skill development and enable them to support one another. The picture above is St. Mary's High School in Annapolis, Maryland. They call their Captain's Council, S.A.I.L. which stands for Student Athletes in Leadership.
The goal of S.A.I.L. is to help Captains reach their full potential by teaching them how to how to create a culture of excellence on and off the field. The captains come together once a month to discuss the qualities, commitments and responsibilities of team leaders and they learn to rely on each other for support in becoming their best leader. S.A.I.L. also promotes positive communication between coaches, administration and athletes. Watch the Video to the left explaining this excellent Captain's Council and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on creating a Captain's Council for your school community!
Allison Fondale, Athletic Director at St. Mary's asserts, "S.A.I.L. was implemented to further develop the leadership skills of our athletes and to inspire a culture of excellence within our athletic teams. Having the students choose the topics and run the discussion sessions provides them with ownership of the program and allows them to collaborate with students on other teams and further their development as leaders. Play Like a Champion and the United States Naval Academy have provided the program with tremendous resources to help it excel and succeed. I am proud to say that our students value the program and aspire to be a part of it."
Sport Reflections on the Mysteries of the Rosary
The month of October each year is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. This is primarily due to the fact that the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on October 7th. Play Like a Champion provides a resource for teams to reflect on the mysteries of the rosary, including an athletic reflection. You can view all the reflections HERE. Here's a sample from the Luminous Mysteries:
The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven
"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'”
Reflection: God’s kingdom is not far away, above us in the heavens. The kingdom is up to us to create with justice, mercy, compassion, care, love, concern for all. How can we, individually as athletes and together as a team, bring the Kingdom to our team and the game?
Access Resources & Learn More at PlayLikeaChampion.org
Volume 20, Issue 6 | October 6, 2020
Athletes in 2020: Trauma is Real
For many of your athletes, the last six months have brought about the most significant trauma they have experienced in their young lives. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March, young athletes have likely dealt with difficult situations in their home, school, community and the sports they love. This trauma may range from stress or anxiety as a result of changes caused by the pandemic (canceled seasons, virtual school) to more serious events such as financial difficulties, illness, or even the death of a loved one. On top of this, most young people have dealt with separation from family and friends at a time in their lives when social interaction is considered vital. Finally, young black athletes who may have long been victims of systemic racism are likely also grappling with trauma caused by racial injustices brought to light this summer, while athletes of all races may well be struggling with this injustice and the social unrest being felt in many communities.
2020 has been overwhelming for many young athletes, which can manifest itself in their behavior and performance during training or competition. In this week's Coach Note, Dr. Carrie Hastings, a Sports Psychologist who works with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams provides a helpful overview of what your athletes may be dealing with and how trauma might reveal itself. Watch the video and consider how your athletes may be affected by COVID-19, racial injustices and the events of the past several months.
As coaches it's important that we recognize the trauma that is affecting our athletes, work with them to address consequences, and assure they get any additional help they may need. Whether your team has returned to practice and competition or waiting to resume, make sure that you communicate with athletes and find out how they're coping with the difficulties that have been presented. Work to build relationships on your team between both coaches and athletes, emphasizing themes such as connection and compassion. Most importantly, let your athletes know that you care about them. The great Eddie Robinson once said that "Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them." Perhaps at no time has that been more true than now.
Scripture of the Week: Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
High School Partner Summit
October 14 at Noon Eastern
Play Like a Champion High School Athletic Directors and Coaches, let's get together! Join us for a conversation on the status of sports across our country during this unprecedented fall of 2020.
Register in advance for this meeting. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. We look forward to seeing you!
Positive Mental Imagery
In the midst of trauma that affects athletic performance in training and competition, developing positive mental exercises may be a valuable tool. Click the image to the left or the link below to watch a short YouTube video on the Scientific Benefits of Visualization for Athletes, then consider how you can implement these practices within your team. Whether you are back on the field or awaiting the return of sports amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, visualization is a positive mental exercise that athletes can utilize on their own to boost confidence, overcome anxiety and improve performance.
Gracious God, I thank you for calling me to the ministry of coaching. Help me to answer that call with a generous spirit. Enable me to be a good coach, skilled, informed, fair-minded and caring. Let me see beyond the rules of sports and capture their spirit. Grant us the wisdom to see that athletics are not only about healthy bodies but healthy minds, that sports are not only about victory but enjoyment, that competition is not only about winning but building community.
Let the example of Christ inspire and guide my coaching so that I never lose sight of the dignity and worth of each and every person whom I coach. Help me to follow that example by coaching not only by instruction but by encouragement and love.
Lord, keep me mindful of Your presence in my life and teach me and my athletes to be grateful for your many blessings. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Volume 20, Issue 5 | September 29, 2020
What Can COVID-19
Teach Us About Ourselves?
Have you heard the term “Clutch Player”?
A Clutch Player is an athlete that consistently performs well when there’s a lot on the line. They thrive in situations where the pressure is high and the consequences of their performance (including the possibility of failure) are great. Hitting a shot when your team is winning by double digits is a lot easier than hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer. The pressure of knowing that if you succeed, you’ll be the hero or if you fail you’re automatically labelled the villain can rattle even the most experienced athletes, making it difficult to play to your full abilities.
So, what exactly contributes to the making of a clutch player? Paul Sullivan, in his book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, (2010, Portfolio/Penguin Books), describes five characteristics of clutch individuals in sports and beyond. Sullivan’s five characteristics include:
Clutch players display these five characteristics consistently because they are constantly learning about themselves as they challenge themselves. Even in times when they “fail” they stop to ask: “What can I take away from this experience to help me learn more about myself and improve?”
Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about these five characteristics. We are forced us to be adaptable (hopefully). It has challenged us to remain focused and self-disciplined while we couldn't be with our teams practicing and playing. To maintain our emotional health we need to learn how to stay in the moment (be present) and balance our desire to compete and play to be the best with the need to social distance and take other precautions to maintain the physical health of ourselves and those we love (push and pull between fear and desire).
Consider how you have personally grown in these five characteristics during the pandemic. Which of the characteristics do you still need help developing? Make a commitment during the month of October to intentially work on that characteristic each day. At the end of the day, write down how you did. At the end of the month, evaluate how you are a better athlete from practicing this quality. You can become a Clutch Player!
A Letter from the Future
Here’s an activity you can do to help illuminate things you have learned about yourself as you manage life during a pandemic. It’s called, A Letter from the Future. In it you are asked to look back at today from five years into the future.
When you are finished, share your letter with someone you trust such as a coach, parent or teammate.
Take this activity to your team as an effective team-building experience.
A Prayer for Hope
“Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1: 2-4
In the midst of difficult trials, remember to focus on the Lord. Joy is not derived from comfort, but from our deep conviction that God is with us always. Joy comes from our belief that, no matter what is happening, God is shaping us more completely into best version of ourselves that God created us to be.
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Volume 20, Issue 4 | September 22, 2020
Helping Athletes to Achieve Focus
Developing and maintaining focus during practice and competition is an essential part of any athlete's ability to maximize performance. As coaches, this can also be one of our most difficult tasks. Young athletes can be easily distracted by thoughts, events or interactions that draw their attention away from the task at hand. From teammates to opponents, parents to school, to a pandemic that affects when and how they can play sports, it can be difficult to maintain focus in the midst of so much noise and the pressure to keep going despite challenging circumstances.
Alison Silverio knows all about this. As an athlete, Silverio was named MVP of the 2007 NCAA Women's Tennis Tournament and helped her Georgia Tech team to a national championship. As a coach, she's worked with elite athletes in a sport where both endurance and quick reflexes are vital and a high level of focus is necessary for success. Watch the video above to learn her keys for helping to train athletes to improve focus. Then consider the following steps you can take with your athletes right now:
Consider how these tips can help your athletes achieve a greater level of focus in practice and competition so that whenever they are able to take the field, athletes can take their game to the next level.
Scripture of the Week: I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)
Mental Skills for Successful Athletes
In the midst of lockdowns last Spring, Play Like a Champion published a series of Champion Coach Notes dedicated to improving mental skills while athletes were sidelined. Whether or not young athletes have now returned to practice or competition, these remain important skills to understand and improve. We encourage coaches and athletes to review these skills via the links below and commit to building in these areas over the coming months.
Level 1: Basic Skills - Attitude, Motivation, Goals & People Skills
Level 2: Preparatory Skills - Self-talk & Mental Imagery
Level 3: Performance Skills - Dealing with Anxiety, Emotion and Concentration
Heavenly Father guide me as I try to coach my team to build each player’s character and boost their self-esteem. May I keep an even temper and remember it’s a game; let me not have favorite players, but treat them all the same. Grant me patient wisdom as I praise them or correct ...Remembering that I must work to earn each one’s respect. Lord, whether we may win or lose, may all who are watching see the
kind of coach at every game that you would have me be. Amen.
Courtesy Inner City Catholic League, South Bend, IN