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Play Like a Champion Today 
Sports Leadership Conference

Champion the Athlete in All
June 13-14, 2024 at the University of Notre Dam

We are excited to gather again this June for the 2024 Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. This annual event brings together our national community to connect with each other, learn from an outstanding group of speakers and be inspired in our role as mentors for youth. 

The Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference is the premiere annual gathering of youth and high school athletic administrators, coaches and leaders from across North America. The conference celebrates the three pillars of connection, education and inspiration, with each year offering a unique opportunity to interact in kinship with like-minded sport leaders while learning core elements of the Play Like a Champion approach. The fantastic speakers and stimulating break-out groups are sure to inspire all! This summer's conference will once again offer particpants the opportunity to collaborate on strategies for building a brighter, healthier and more just sport culture for student-athletes. Join us to learn from an exciting group of speakers and interact with an amazing network of leaders from our national community!


Who Should Come? Administrators, coaches and community leaders involved in youth and high school sports or concerned with the health and well-being of children across America. This conference is for those who want to learn from experts, engage with peers, and find ways to take action in their own communities and schools. Whether you're an athletic director or coach, a business executive or a community leader, you will find valuable discussion, learning, and kinship at this unique annual gathering.

"This conference was outstanding! I was a first time participant and loved the content. I can use it both at a professional and personal level."

Featured Speakers

The 2024 Play Like a Champion Conference features an exciting lineup of speakers, from high level coaches and athletes to experts in the field of sports psychology, sports medicine and those making real change in the world of youth and high school sports. Read about some of this year's speakers:

Micah Shrewsberry

Head Coach, Notre Dame Men's Basketball

Shrewsberry was named the head coach of Notre Dame's men's basketball program in 2023 following a historic turnaround as head coach at Penn State and assistant roles with the Boston Celtics, Purdue University and Butler University. While an assistant at Butler, Shrewsberry helped guide the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship game appearances before joining coach Brad Stevens in Boston, where the Celtics made five playoff appearances and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances during his time there. Known for his ability to develop athletes on and off the floor, Shrewsberry is widely praised for his character and values.

Joe Delagrave

Head Coach, USA Wheelchair Rugy

Two-Time Paralympic Athlete

After a live altering injury, Wheelchair Rugby became a positive outlet for the competitive fire that remained with Joe Delagrave. Having been named to the United States National Team for 13 consecutive years, Delagrave now serves as the team's head coach. The only athlete to ever earn the USQRA Athlete of the Year Award twice, Delagrave participated on 3 World Championship teams (2010 Gold, 2014 Bronze and 2018 Bronze) and 2 Paralympic teams (2012 Bronze, 2020 Silver). He also served as a co-captain of the the team for 8 years. With a passion for leadership, Delagrave has made it his goal to inspire others, getting the most out of his teams and those he speaks to.

Dr. Hillary Cauthen

Clinical Sport Psychologist, Former Division I College Track Athlete

Dr. Hillary Cauthen is a clinical sport psychologist based in Austin, TX. A Division I college track athlete, she studied and competed at the University of New Hampshire, and Miami, Ohio, before completing her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, in Los Angeles. Dr. Cauthen is a Co-Founder of Texas Optimal Performance & Psychological Services and formerly served as the Director of Organizational Wellness & Performance for Austin FC (MLS Soccer) and as the performance psychologist for the San Antonio Spurs, where she developed their mental performance and wellness programs. Dr. Cauthen has developed private businesses that bring mental wellness curriculum to school districts across the nation, as well as an analytics company that helps predict the behavioral risk factors in players for teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and Premier League. Her work with high performance is breaking down stigma across communities which is highlighted in her newly published book, Hello Trauma, Our Invisible Teammate.

Dr. Cecilia Andrea Cordova Vallejos

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician Specializing in Sports Medicine

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Dr. Cordova is an expert in treating patients with musculoskeletal conditions, including overuse and acute injuries and chronic conditions affecting the joints (shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, ankle, spine, and others), tendons and ligaments, and her passion is adaptive sports. Her contributions in these areas have allowed her to become a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Olympic and Paralympic Sports Medicine and Sports Science Committee, to be chosen as part of ACSM’s Emerging Physician Leaders Program, and to become a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. She is a strong believer of exercise as medicine, and treats athletes of all abilities and levels. A graduate of Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Dr. Cordova completed a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where she also completed her sports medicine fellowship.

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Derek Brown

Founder and Head Coach, Boxing Out Negativity

Derek Brown is the founder and head coach of Boxing Out Negativity, an anti-violence program that empowers Chicago's most at-risk youth to realize the best within themselves. He leads both a team of coaches and an outreach team that hosts talking/peace circles with parents, youth, and others throughout the community, schools, and the Cook County Jail.  Coach Brown also serves as Restorative Justice Coordinator at St. Agatha Church. His work has been featured by outlets including CNN, ABC News, and Vice News.

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi

Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport

Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer of social and behavioral sciences in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and the Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. Through action-oriented collaborative research, she translates data and answers critical questions that can make a difference in the lives of girls and women. As a leading scholar on gender, leadership and women coaches, Dr. LaVoi has published 100+ book chapters, research reports and peer-reviewed articles in top-rated journals. Her Outstanding Academic Title award-winning book Women in Sports Coaching, the annual Women in College Coaching Report Card™ and Emmy-nominated documentary GAME ON: Women Can Coach help inform countless stakeholders who changing the system for women sport coaches. She is the Product Manager of Coaching HER®, and co-creator of Body Confident Sport, free tools to upskill coaches to more effectively coach girls. She is an award-winning athlete, coach, scholar, and distinguished teacher, 2013 regional Emmy winner for Best Sport Documentary, two-time Hall of Fame inductee and was named a 2023 USTA Champion of Equality. LaVoi played collegiate tennis at Gustavus Adolphus College winning a NCAA-III National Team Championship.

Dr. Nancy Michael

Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior, University of Notre Dame

Since December of 2014, Dr. Nancy Michael has served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Neuroscience and Behavior major at the University of Notre Dame. In her years as faculty, Dr. Michael’s dedication to excellence, innovation in education and commitment to community wellness have earned her numerous teaching, advising and community awards. In partnership with multiple local South Bend community organizations, Dr. Michael works to develop and implement NEAR-P (neuroscience, epigenetics, adverse childhood experiences, resilience and protective factors) science approaches that aim to mitigate the impact of toxic stress on individuals and communities.  Her research uses a community-based change theory model to work with community organizations in developing population specific NEAR-based strategies to support organizational and community efforts in becoming trauma-informed.

Dr. Tim White

Founder, White House Sport Psychology

Dr. Tim White has spent his entire 20-year career helping elite athletes recover, train, and compete to the best of their abilities. He began his career as an athletic trainer and has transitioned work as a sport psychologist. Today, he serves athletes competing in every sport imaginable at the youth, high school, college and professional levels. He is an expert in the mental game and helping athletes learn how to develop and train the mental skills, tools, and strategies they need to "get out of their head and let their body do what it knows how to do." He is also an expert in the mental side of injuries, surgery, and rehabilitation. When guiding injured athletes through the process of healing and returning to their sport, Tim helps them learn to trust their body again and compete at the same level of skill and ability that they had before they were injured. Tim is licensed in counseling psychology, certified in sport psychology, and still holds his athletic training certification. In addition to using his expertise to help his clients, he regularly speaks at national and international conferences and contributes to professional articles and research. 

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Pam Baker

Founder, Women's Coaching Alliance

Pam Baker founded Women's Coaching Alliance in 2020 with daughters Katie and Kylie in honor of their late husband/father Doug Friedman. A long-time youth coach himself and an advocate for female coaches, his inspiration led Baker to establish the Alliance with a goal of developing female leaders and growing the number of women in coaching. To do this, the organization connects young women with coaching opportunities as well as development and mentorship to prepare them to lead both in sport and life. Women's Coaching Alliance is already making a significant impact, having partnered with a number of organizations, including the NFL, while receiving accolades from leaders across America. Baker's work is changing the game for young women, inspiring them to "Coach Today, Lead for Life".

Twan & Tyson Russell

Athletic Director, St. Thomas Aquinas High School

Student-Athlete, Vanderbilt University Football

Twan Russell was a four-year letterman at the University of Miami, earning all-conference honors as a linebacker in 1996 before becoming a fifth round NFL Draft pick in 1997 by the Washington Redskins. During a 7 year career in the NFL, Russell played for the Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons. After retiring, he spent 17 years with the Miami Dolphins, eventually becoming their Sr. Director of Community Affairs before joining St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) as Athletic Director. His son Tyson is embarking on an athletic career of his own, having won a Florida 7A State Football Championship at Aquinas before attending Vanderbilt University and playing for the Commodores program, where he will be a senior next fall. An SEC Honor Roll student, Russell played in all 12 games in 2023, notching his first career interception as a starting cornerback. Twan Russell began the Russell Life Skills and Reading Foundation in 1998, with a mission of "Opening Books to Open Doors" for at-risk youth.

Ed Hastings, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Theology, Villanova University

A guard on Villanova's men's basketball team from 1970-1973, Hastings has gone on to a distinguished career as a professor, specializing in spirituality and sports. Inspired by Villanova's Augustinian tradition, Hastings cites St. Augustine's quote, "In coming to know myself, I come to know God" and St. Anselm, "faith seeking understanding" as guiding principles of his teaching, exploring the intersection between faith and sports in today's world and across history. A popular professor who has worked with a number of athletes and coaches, Hastings offers insight for coaches and administrators at all levels looking to develop the interplay between faith and sport in their own teams.


Conference Schedule

*All times for Retreat and Conference are Eastern Daylight Time. Subject to change.

The 2024 Conference will once again feature a number of great opportunities to experience the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame and its state-of-the-art facilities. Attendees can look forward to our annual banquet dinner in the Downes Ballroom while overlooking the historic Notre Dame Football Stadium, a special banquet and concert experience at the Morris Inn, and many other fun activities to be announced! While on campus, we invite you to explore the famous Golden Dome, take a photo of "Touchdown Jesus", visit the newly opened Raclin Art Museum, light a candle at the grotto, take a jog around St. Joseph Lake or have a pint at the local Irish Pub. Guests will find many fun things to do outside the conference schedule!

2023 Conference Brochure

Curious About What to Expect? Click Above to Access the Official 2023 Conference Program!

Annual Pre-Conference Retreat: Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Our 10th annual pre-conference spiritual retreat "Sacred Echoes" will be held on Wednesday, June 12th beginning at 1:00 pm EDT. The retreat is an opportunity for athletic leaders to pause after a busy year, reflect on the graces they have encountered, and re-energize so that they can continue to pour themselves out to the athletes and staff entrusted to their care. The retreat will allow participants to experience the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame (weather permitting) while providing time for prayer, reflection and discussion. Those interested in participating may register as part of registration for the full Leadership Conference. We hope to see you there! 

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Play Like a Champion is committed to assuring that all children have an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of youth sports in a safe and fun environment. Through our annual conference, coach and parent education, and initiatives like A Team for Every Child, this work is improving the lives of children in communities across the country. If you are unable to make the conference this year, please still consider a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more to support Play Like a Champion's mission. Click the link below to donate today! 

What are people saying about the Play Like a Champion Today Conference?

100% of participants attending our last conference said it met or exceeded their expectations.

“I love the feeling of family this conference leaves you with.”


“It’s always the people at the conference and the opportunity to engage in discussions with them about how they live out this mission within their own schools and leagues that is powerful. This is a phenomenal group committed to the well-being of our children and the mission of virtue driven sports. It’s your biggest asset as a program and this conference allows the group to get together in one place and interact.”

“Seeing the conference first-hand was great. Athletics today really needs your message! Great values and strong character can and should be the results of an athletic program, but they have to be at the forefront of the program. You are reinforcing those concepts to all of your participants and that will be a great help to all the kids playing in their programs!”


“ I met such wonderful people from all over the place. I gained great new ideas from them and different perspectives on life. Also, the conference was very well run and professional by a wonderful organization with such committed energetic people.


“This is a fantastic conference that exceeded my expectations. It was organized and professional. The speakers were very impactful and inspiring! All the content was relevant, informative and thought provoking. The conference created collaboration with seminar formats and close interaction with presenters and colleagues.”


“It is a summer ritual to attend the conference to be inspired and motivated to prepare for another year in coaching and education.”

"I loved the subject matter of this conference – it was both informative and inspirational. These are subjects most people are uncomfortable discussing and the conference presented it in a very positive and professional light."

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