Play Like a Champion Coming to Omaha

Winning-at-all-cost coaching, sports specialization and parent “sports rage” are just a few of the problems occurring within the culture of sports today. The Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame has developed a new approach. The Play Like a Champion Today educational series supports sports leagues in promoting: athletics as ministry to youth and families, building teams as moral communities, character development, spiritual growth, intrinsic motivation and responsible decision-making.

The Institute designed the program to provide children with the highest quality sports experience possible. Drawing on the expertise of members of the Notre Dame coaching staff, the research of developmental and sport psychologists as well as leaders in the Catholic ministry, PLC aims to transform youth sports by educating coaches and parents to nurture personal and spiritual development along with athletic excellence.

St. Stephen the Martyr Parish will host the area’s first PLC workshops on the week-end of November 5, 2010. Parents will be offered a “Parent Like a Champion” workshop on Friday evening while youth sport coaches will hear the message on Saturday. University of Notre Dame presenter Kristin Sheehan will be in Omaha to conduct the workshops with local leadership.  Fr. James Tiegs, pastor, sent Jim Lebeda, St. Stephen’s athletic director and assistant principal of the school, to attend the Play Like a Champion Today National Leadership Conference on Notre Dame’s campus in June of 2010 to become introduced to the PLC philosophy.

Play Like a Champion Today enjoys partnership with twenty Catholic dioceses and several large parish communities across the country. PLC has educated over 10,000 coaches who in turn have impacted the lives of over 250,000 youth athletes. PLC is excited to welcome in partnership the Catholic School Sports programs of Omaha. Larry Muno, program coordinator for the Los Angeles  archdiocese said about the project: “PLC is a fantastic program! It addresses all the pertinent issues that impact the archdiocese of Los Angeles: providing kids with fair playing time, putting kids first and combating the win-at-all-cost mentality so prevalent in youth sports. The program shows coaches how to win the right way all the while considering the child’s development and emphasizing the enjoyment of participation. My coaches come out of the training with a different perspective and a renewed passion for coaching and youth sports. We are extremely satisfied with the PLC program and sincerely believe that it is making a difference in our diocese.”  Workshop evaluation data also confirm the effectiveness of the initiative. For example, 94% of the coaches who attended the workshops reported that they would recommend the workshop to others. When asked about the impact of the workshop, 75% responded that it had changed their way of thinking about youth sport coaching.

The Institutes own research on player, coach and fan behavior at youth sporting events documented unacceptable levels of unsportsmanlike and aggressive behavior. One might expect Catholic programs to fare better than their secular counterparts, but Notre Dame’s research indicates that in many respects, Catholic programs are worse.

“If Catholic-sponsored sports programs are going to achieve their full potential as envisioned by Pope John Paul II, Catholic dioceses and parishes  are going to have to invest in preparing coaches as educators,”  says Dr. Clark Power, PLC program director. “The Church has a long and proud history of preparing her ministers for service. Prior to attending a Play Like a Champion Today workshop, most coaches in Catholic sponsored youth sports programs never thought of themselves as youth ministers. After the workshop, most coaches have not only bought in to their ministerial role, but feel that they can more effectively promote the highest values of sport.”

In addition to offering coach workshops, PLC offers the Parent Like a Champion Today program, an interactive workshop to help parents of young athletes. The PLC Parent Workshop seeks not only to respond to all too frequent incidents of “sideline rage,” but also seeks to give parents sound advice on how to guide their children through their youth sports careers. Parents receive education and materials that help them reinforce the goals of character development through sport by the PLC program. Parents also receive guidance on how they can help their children to form habits of spiritual reflection, perseverance, sound decision-making, team work, good nutrition and regular exercise.

Look for more information in both the school and RE newsletters and the Sunday bulletin. Feel free to address your questions to Jim Lebeda at 861-4529.