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Virtual Leadership Conference Connects Leaders, Inspires Change

July 15, 2020


Three weeks ago, what would have been the 15th Annual Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference became the 1st Annual Virtual Sports Leadership Conference. What was at first an obstacle created by the COVID-19 pandemic was transformed into an opportunity to connect, educate, and inspire like never before. Strengthened by the energy and commitment of our partners, we took up the challenge to pursue our mission at the margins. The title of the conference, Kinship Through Sports: GROWing a Community of Hope, expresses the crucial first step that this challenge requires. By starting with kinship Play Like a Champion, “a community of communities in the making,” serves as a catalyst for the moral change our society needs. Play Like a Champion Founder and Director Dr. Clark Power opened the conference with a vision for this change. He said, “Our children deserve to grow up in a just and caring society. They deserve to grow up with caring mentors and supportive peers. They deserve a society that once and for all renounces the depraved indifference that leaves so many children trapped in generational poverty.” Delivering on this vision is the work of many hands. So, it was indeed hopeful to experience, albeit virtually, a level of engagement and enthusiasm among participants, speakers, and partners that proved we were up to the challenge.

We know that our efforts must outlast the talks and the interviews, the breakout sessions and the peace circles. Therefore, as we prepare for our 16th year of operating in over 150 cities throughout the U.S. we want to offer these inspiring quotes to fortify us all over the next year.

“You want to be enlightened witnesses. People who, through your kindness and tenderness and focused attentive love, return people to themselves.”


~ Fr. Greg Boyle, Founder and Director of Homeboy Industries

“Coaches are important because you know we never know… who that coach is going to be in your life to uplift you; to remind you how great you are; to remind you that you're a good individual, that you're a good person.”


~ Javier Chavez, Homeboy Industries

“It's presence of being there and being able to say, ‘I'm here with you no matter what. I'm here to be not only your coach but your friend and that guy that’s going to help guide you.'”

~ Miguel Lugo, Homeboy Industries

“If you come into our practice facility…there [are] no national championship banners. There [are] no jerseys of pro players or Big East championships. There's nothing there when you walk onto the court. All it has behind each basket is the word attitude.”


~ Jay Wright, Head Men's Basketball Coach at Villanova University

“You as coaches are really the first line to creating good athletes but, not only good athletes, good people. We need to teach women that they can play in different ways. Women can lead in roles that were not always held by women.”


~ Lynette Wukie, First Female Leprechaun at the University of Notre Dame

“If we do sport right, the adults, the parents, the stakeholders, the administrators, the physical activity leaders, the community advocates -- if we give girls access and action to participate, and we involve girls in their own agency and create a positive climate for girls to participate, it can lead to the asset accrual on the right side.”


~ Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport

“The girls in the communities where we are working are dealing with significant rates of community trauma and some of the girls have experienced trauma personally. So, [we are] recognizing that and making that a guiding principle of what we do.”


~ Meghan Morgan, Executive Director of Girls in the Game

“Engaging those female mentors and those coaches again allows [girls] to be comfortable, allows them to be able to share, and gives them an opportunity to see some of the things that they can do later in life.”


~ Dr. Ramona Cox, Associate Athletic Director of the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL)

“Coach Sanopsky just became like a father to me. It changed my life, really changed my life, at a time when I really needed to be changed.”


~ Dick Vitale, ESPN College Basketball Analyst

“I think the value of being on a team, learning to be accountable to your coach and to your teammates, working towards a common goal - those life skills are transferable regardless of where the sports path leads."


~ Terri Vitale, Former Notre Dame Collegiate Tennis Player

“I want to just remind you how special you are as a coach and what that means.”


~ Kory Minor, Play Like a Champion Trainer, Speaker and Former Notre Dame Football Player

“There's a statue of me at Notre Dame. I guess they need a place for the pigeons to land. I don't know we like this statue. Look at the pedestal there's three words trust commitment love. I didn't put it there. The players at Notre Dame put it there. That's what we believed in. That's what we stand for. That's what we want to be remembered for.”


~ Lou Holtz, Hall of Fame College Football Coach

“We do peace circles. These are all things that I learned when I was in jail. I just took all of my self tools, the self tools that I gained in life, that God showed me and gave me this vision. I adopted those same rules and I complete these circles. My past allows me to get out the circle and see what's broken in a circle, to get out and fix it.”


~ Derek Brown, Founder and Head Coach of Boxing Out Negativity

“We can't talk about trauma without addressing what's going on in today's world. We've had a lot in 2020 that certainly can qualify as traumatic on many levels for many different people.”


~ Dr. Carrie Hastings, Licensed Clinical & Sports Psychologist

“Today we all are pieces to the puzzle of this new normal, of this new world. As Carrie said, COVID-19 and recent unrest are sledgehammers to our puzzle. Some of us are damaged. Some of us are broken. Some of us are fine. In the past few months, we all have endured some type of trauma.”


~ Derrick Perry, Mental Health Professional

“I have always encouraged any people that are working with young people whether it be coaches, teachers, mentors to always try to be in a realm where you're recognizing trauma. But the only way you can really do that is if you build a rapport with the youth that you're working with.”


~ Catherine Matthews, Founder and Youth Development Specialist, Endless Energy Sports

“Literally daily I'm walking with an infectious disease specialist trying to get the latest there's new research every day.”


~ Dr. Joseph Congeni, Director Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital

“I would say that everything is risk-benefit. Is there any benefit to playing youth sports? If you think there is, then you have to weigh that against well maybe there is a 1 in 200,000 chance of a problem with a child.”


~ Dr. Blaise Congeni, Director Pediatric Infectious Disease at Akron Children's Hospital

“If you're going to lead the orchestra you have to turn your back to the crowd…You must listen to the right voices. I think about you all as mentors. You have to listen to the right voices, and you have to be able to speak into athletes lives and others that are in your sphere of influence.”


~ Pastor Carey Casey, Founder and CEO of Championship Fathering

We hope you will reflect on these quotes and the corresponding clips to encourage you in the face of our shared work changing the culture of youth and high school sports. Please visit our website for more information.

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