Play Like a Champion Today is an independent 501(c)(3) dedicated to providing leadership in a worldwide effort to change the culture of youth sports through education and consultancy. Since 2006, Play Like a Champion has served over 130,000 coaches and parents through a network of 230+ partners across the United States and Canada. Play Like a Champion moves beyond the X's and O's of coaching to address the core elements of effective coaching: 1) motivation, 2) team-building, 3) leadership. Scientifically-based and ethically-directed, Play Like a Champion designs its educational programs to promote children's physical, social, emotional and moral development to last a lifetime.
Play Like a Champion Today's Educational Series believes that the quality of preparation for our children’s educators reflects our respect for and care of our children. We have put our children’s physical, emotional and mental well-being in the hands of far too many well-meaning, but ill-informed coaches; and our children are paying the consequences. Overuse injuries, burnout, and abuse are far too common in youth and high school sports. Investing in quality coach education is not only prudent, but morally responsible.
Play Like a Champion advocates youth sports as a safety net for children from distressed families, schools, and neighborhoods. All children deserve an opportunity to play, to be physically active, to have caring adult mentors, and to be a part of team.
Through our A Team for Every Child initiative, Play Like a Champion Today has made service to the least advantaged its priority. Play Like a Champion serves a wide array of sports organizations with programs especially designed to meet their specific needs and aspirations.
Contact us to find out how we can work with your school, league or association!
All Play Like a Champion Coach Clinics are accredited by the NCACE.
In 2006, Clark Power, Notre Dame Professor of psychology and education, founded Play Like a Champion Today. A sports fan, child advocate, and expert in moral development, Power was concerned about what he felt was a crisis in youth sports. Increasing numbers of families could not afford the rising costs of youth sports fees and equipment, too many children deemed to be below average or just average were sitting on the bench, overzealous coaches and parents were putting too much pressure on young athletes, and sideline behavior was deteriorating.
Drawing on the sports sciences and the expertise of Notre Dame faculty, coaches, and administrators, Power and colleagues, Nicole LaVoi, Brooke Crawford, and Kristin Sheehan developed the Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series curriculum
and formed partnerships with sports organizations around the country. In 2016, following more than 10 years at the University of Notre Dame, Play Like a Champion leadership in consultation with our Advisory Board and officials at Notre Dame made the decision to establish the organization as an independent non-profit outside the university. Thanks to the accelerated growth of Play Like a Champion programs and partnerships, this new model has allowed us to continue building a unique structure that serves our partners while expanding our services to children in need.
Over the past fifteen years Play Like a Champion has partnered with more than 230 schools and sports organizations, ranging from the National Soccer Coaches' Association of America to the schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the programs of the North Lawndale Athletic and Recreation Association in North Lawndale, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. As our community continues to grow, we look forward to serving partners in our quest to provide every child with a safe, fun and supportive environment in which they can play and grow as persons and athletes.
Our Community of Partners
Play Like a Champion is a national community of more than 230 partner organizations committed to including all children in sports programs that are safe, fun, and developmentally focused. The interactive map above provides partner information.
The Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series is informed by the research conducted by Clark Power and his colleagues at Notre Dame’s Shaw for Children and Families as well as the research of colleagues in the fields of education, ethics, medicine, psychology, sociology, and theology from Universities around the country. Play Like a Champion’s research challenges scholars as well as sports leaders to rethink the role that youth sports play in child development. Adult organized youth sports have become less about developing virtues than about winning, self-promotion, and profits.
Contemporary scholars in the fields of moral and character education generally looked to schools not to sports programs to provide moral, character, and civic education (Altof & Berkowitz, 2006). We have found, however, that well-run sports programs have the potential to provide young people with experiences of group attachment and social responsibility with significant character-building potential (Power, 2015; Power & Sheehan, 2014; Power & Seroczynski, 2016).
At a time of rising inequality and declining social mobility and social solidarity (Putnam, 2015), the need for such sports programs that can serve both poor and affluent children has never been greater.
Catholic Youth Sports Scholarship – Play Like a Champion has developed a distinctively “Catholic” curriculum for coaching rooted in a spirituality of play (Hugo Rahner; Patrick Kelly, S.J.), theology of ministry ( Richard McBrien), and moral theology (Thomas Aquinas).
Interdisciplinary Research on Youth Sports Programming for Trauma Prevention and Remediation for Urban Youth – Working in collaboration with physicians, social scientists and community leaders, Power and members of the Play a Champion Today team have developed Trauma Sensitive and Responsive Coaching modules that acknowledge how coaches can address ACE's, acute childhood experiences, through sport attending to children’s mental health.
Academic Research in Civic Education: Our research in sports relates to a larger research question in the field of civic education – how do we educate young people to be responsible and engaged citizens in a democratic society? Our latest research indicates that sports teams can engender a strong sense of social solidarity, group attachment, and responsibility for the common good (e.g., Power & Power, 2014; Power & Seroczynski, 2016; Power, Roney, & Seroczynski in preparation).
Impact - Bringing about Meaningful Change: Educational researchers in all areas of inquiry (math and science education as well as moral education) have generally not had a widespread influence on classroom practice. This is not because educational researchers have not come up with powerful curricula and pedagogical strategies but because educational researchers rarely tackle the challenges that come with establishing effective delivery systems for distributing those curricula and strategies. These challenges entail maintaining rigor while pursuing relevance on a large scale (Reeves, 2011). The Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series Program has thus far demonstrated that its train-the-trainer collaborative partnership approach can deliver high quality programming at a low cost.
What is Play Like a Champion Today?
Play Like a Champion Today is a nonprofit organization working in communities across the country to educate ethically responsible sports leaders and promote a positive sports culture for all young people. We work with schools and sports organizations of all sizes and affiliations around the country, offering a wide range of workshops for coaches, athletics administrators, parents and athletes. Play Like a Champion also provides consultancy to sport organizations in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to create collaborative associations that provide sport opportunities for all children through its A Team for Every Child Initiative.
I'm a coach (or a principal or parent or official). How do I get involved?
A great way to begin is to attend the annual Leadership Conference in June at the University of Notre Dame. The two-day conference serves as both an introduction to the Play Like a Champion philosophy and workshops/clinics, and as an extension of our ongoing relationship with coaches and sports leaders. After the conference, new partners return home and begin to energize their organizations to prepare for the first Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series clinic. At a scheduled time, a member of the Play Like a Champion staff will travel to your location, meet with you and other leaders of your school or sports organization, and collaborate with you to present your first series of workshops.
What happens after the on-site meeting?
After the “Train-the-Trainer” clinic, you will be in a position to conduct your own training of coaches and parents in your organization. Play Like a Champion staff will remain in regular communication with you, consulting year-round on a variety of issues that may arise.
Am I required to attend the Summer Leadership Conference before I begin?
No. You may be able to engage with Play Like a Champion at any time. Contact us to find out more. Our work is customized to fit each school, league, or association's needs. In addition to our basic coach and parent clinics, we offer Advanced Workshops, Athlete Resources, and continuing education for coaches, administrators, and parents. We also offer consultancy to create strong, sustainable organizations serving all children's needs. We are committed to working with you to make your athletic program the best it can be!
How much does it cost?
The Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series is a not-for-profit initiative. A portion of our operating costs are covered by grants and gifts from our supporters. The schools and associations we work with are assessed fees that cover the remaining costs. Costs vary depending on the program, and the size of the organization, and number of people involved. Please contact us for more information.
Other than becoming a Play Like a Champion partner, what can I do to support Play Like a Champion Today?
Consider making an annual or monthly donation to Play Like a Champion Today to support programs in your areas or in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty across our country.
We want to hear from you! Are you interested in learning more about our programs or partnering with us to bring Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series clinics and workshops to your school or organization? Do you just have a question about our programs? Complete the form below and one of our staff members will be in touch with you shortly!