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New Book Provides Opportunity to Elevate the Culture of Sports

July 20, 2020


For many involved in youth and high school sports, summer invokes sun-soaked days and nights at the ballpark. It's the season of summer sports camps and local tournaments, offseason workouts and preparation for the year to come. In the midst of an ordinary year, the late July heat might make us long for the cool autumn air, a reminder that fall sports are right around the corner. Of course, the past few months has been anything but ordinary. For most of the country, COVID-19 has canceled spring and summer sports while casting uncertainty on fall seasons and the school year ahead.

Play Like a Champion joins athletes, coaches, administrators and parents across the country in missing the sports we love. We recognize the pain that COVID-19 has caused so many and we applaud the hard work being done by so many to plan for the uncertain days and months ahead. We also look forward with hope to the day when we can once again gather around fields and gyms across the country to coach and cheer young athletes as they experience the joy of sport.

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When this day comes, we have a unique opportunity to develop youth and high school athletic programs that are even stronger than we left them. Energized by a return to competition and a renewed sense of purpose, we can make the most of this "reset" by inviting more children to participate in our programs, restoring the fun in sports, and advancing our commitment to mental, physical and spiritual development at all levels. While our fields and stadiums may be quiet at the moment, we need not wait to begin planning for this future.



It's with this in mind that we are thrilled to announce the release of a new book that can help sports leaders to prepare for the promise of tomorrow while the playing fields await our return. Play Like a Champion: Following the Vatican’s Lead to Elevate the Culture of American Sport provides a “Call to Action” for our American Church, with details on how to elevate the culture of Catholic-sponsored sports programs and increase the availability of sports for children across our country.


While the book exists to invoke action, we can use this “pause” in play as an opportunity to evaluate and imagine how we can improve sports for children; both individually and collectively, in our own community as well as across our country. Pope Francis has called on the faithful during this time to consider “what is necessary from what is not” while asking us to “rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us” (Urbi et Orbi, March 27, 2020). This book presents a vision for realizing the Pope’s call in the context of sports. Gaining inspiration from the Vatican’s 2018 release of Giving the Best of Yourself: a Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person, the book provides commentary on the Church’s unique calling in sports while inviting the reader to reflect on how he or she can apply concepts within teams and organizations.

Individual chapters discuss the theology and value of Play; how coaches and athletes can build the virtue of a Champion; the role of Coaching as Ministry; the spirituality of sports; how to build positive partnerships with sport parents; and a Pastoral Action Plan for implementing the Vatican’s vision of a thriving sport culture in your own diocese. Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the overall value of sport in supporting the integral development of people and how sports can be, as Pope Francis suggests, “an instrument of encounter, formation, mission and sanctification” (Pope Francis Letter on Giving the Best of Yourself, June 1, 2018).


Additionally, this book contains a number of exciting, tangible resources that coaches, parents and administrators can use to encourage character development and faith formation through sports. These include:

  • A “10 Commandments for Sport Parents”

  • Codes of Conduct for Sports Parents, Coaches, Athletes, Officials

  • A Guide to “Leading Moral Discussions with your Team”

  • Sport-themed Stations of the Cross

  • Mysteries of the Rosary with Reflections for Athletes and Teams

  • A Novena to St. Sebastian, the Patron Saint of Athletes & Sports

  • Sport Prayers: Categorized by Topic for Athletes, Teams, Coaches and Parents

  • The 5 Minute Game Plan, a series of lesson plans for practices based on age-appropriate catechesis and prayer.

This book is an invitation to all those who believe in the power of sport to serve the human person. To our bishops and priests, coaches at youth, high school and collegiate levels, to sport parents, athletic directors, school administrators and administrators of sports leagues… to athletes and all sport enthusiasts. As we weather the current storm together and await a return to the parishes, schools and athletic fields that should serve to bring us closer to God, we can all work diligently to assure that the world of sports to which we return echoes the call of Pope Francis to “revive our Easter faith.”

Friends of Play Like a Champion can get 25% off the price of the book when you order through the NCEA Store and enter the code "PLAY25OFF". We invite you to order a copy of this book today and use this time to consider how we can work together to make our parish, school and community sports stronger than ever. Join us in a national discussion on how we can elevate the culture of sports, restoring an environment in which young athletes grow and develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

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