Play Like a Champion Today
Virtual Sports Leadership Conference
Kinship Through Sports: GROWing a Community of Hope
The Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference went virtual in 2020! While we missed seeing everyone in-person, the virtual format provided an exciting opportunity for our national community to engage with fellow athletic leaders, learn from a fantastic group of speakers, and be inspired. With COVID-19 still restricting large group gatherings and travel, our staff is monitoring the situation closely as we make plans for 2021. We remain hopeful that this year's conference can take place in-person, while developing alternate plans as necessary. Look for more information on June's Leadership Conference in Early 2021, with registration opening in March!
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, which are reflected in our conference theme. Attendees of 2020's virtual conference had a unique opportunity to interact in kinship, explore core elements of the Play Like a Champion approach, and be inspired by some amazing speakers. The conference addressed challenges in light of social injustice and the current COVID-19 crisis while encouraging participants to create opportunities for all children to participate in a developmentally-focused sports experience.
The 2020 conference featured an outstanding group of speakers including Homeboy Industries Founder Fr. Greg Boyle; Villanova Men's Basketball Coach Jay Wright, Emmy Award Winning ESPN Basketball Commentator Dick Vitale, former Hall of Fame Football Coach Lou Holtz, and many more. These speakers continue the conference tradition of featuring experts in coaching, community sports development and moral and spiritual leadership. Annual attendees can always look forward to interactive breakout sessions that challenge coaches and administrators to GROW in their ability to provide wholly-developmental sports opportunities for all athletes.
In solidarity with those who are enduring significant financial hardships due to COVID-19, Play Like a Champion waived it's conference fee for all who wished to attend this year's virtual event. However, as an independent non-profit organization, we cannot sustain our work without your generosity. If you are able, please consider a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more when you register. This support will provide for the production of our annual conference and further our mission to allow for all children to experience the joy of sports, especially the most vulnerable.
A Change is Gonna Come: An Important Pre-Conference Discussion
On Monday, June 22nd, Dr. Clark Power, Executive Director of Play Like a Champion joined with special guests Richard Pierce, Reggie Brooks and Coquese Washington for a powerful discussion on social injustice. Pierce is a historian of twentieth century American history who specializes in the urban experience of African Americans. Brooks was an All-American Running Back from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as an Assistant Athletic Director in the Notre Dame Athletic Department and recently accepted a new position as the Executive Director of Holtz's Heroes Foundation. Washington recently returned to Notre Dame as an Associate Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team. After playing collegiate basketball at Notre Dame, she earned a law degree and played professionally before becoming an assistant and head coach at the college level.
The 2020 Conference Featured an All-Star Lineup of Speakers!
Fr. Greg Boyle, Homeboy Industries
Greg Boyle, S.J., is an American Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit order. He is the Founder and Director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, CA an organization that employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to thousands of men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life. An accomplished author and international speaker, Fr. Boyle wrote the 2010 New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and 2017's Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship. His 2012 TED Talk on Compassion & Kinship has been viewed nearly 25 million times. In 2014, the White House named Fr. Boyle a Champion of Change and in 2017 he received the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the oldest honor given to American Catholics.
Carey Casey, Championship Fathering
Pastor Casey is best known as a compassionate ambassador and speaker, particularly within the American sports community. He is the shepherding pastor of Lawndale Christian Community Church. A former CEO of the National Center for Fathering (NCF) and former sports chaplain, Casey served on the White House Task Force for Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage, and spent 18 years in various roles with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. As an athlete, Casey played in the 1971 Virginia State Championship football game dramatized in Remember the Titans and helped the University of North Carolina to the 1977 ACC football championship as a running back.
Jay Wright, Villanova Basketball
In 19 seasons as Villanova’s Head Men's Basketball Coach, Jay Wright has become one of the most respected coaches in college basketball. Wright guided the Wildcats to NCAA Championships in 2016 and 2018, making him one of only three active Division I head coaches with multiple national championships to his credit and his players have succeeded both in the classroom and on the court, with seven recent Villanova players currently playing in the NBA. In 2018 Wright received the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award. He is a two-time winner of the Naismith National Coach of the Year award (2006 and 2016) and in 2019 became the first man in Big East history to be selected as the league’s Coach of the Year six times. Wright’s first book “Attitude: How to Develop a Winning Mindset On and Off the Court” was released in 2017 and became a New York Times’ bestseller.
Lou Holtz, Hall of Fame College Coach
As a college football coach for more than 3 decades, Holtz is the only coach in NCAA history to lead 6 different programs to bowl games. Best known for his tenure at Notre Dame, Holtz led the Fighting Irish to the 1988 National Championship and 100 wins. He won conference championships at William & Mary, North Carolina State and Arkansas and is the only coach to guide four different programs to final Top 20 rankings. Holtz received the Walter Camp Foundation's Man of the Year award in 1997 and twice earned the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Academic Achievement Award, which annually honors the school with the highest graduation rate among members of its football team. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and has served as a national speaker and college football analyst for ESPN.
Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport
Dr. LaVoi is the Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, where she received MA (’96) & doctoral degrees (’02) in Kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology/sociology. From 2002-2005, Dr. LaVoi was a Research & Program Associate in the Mendelson Center for Sport & Character at the University of Notre Dame, where she helped launch the Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series with Dr. Clark Power. A former collegiate tennis athlete and coach, she is the author of Women in Sports Coaching (2016) and co-produced with the documentary Game On: Women Can Coach. Dr. LaVoi frequently speaks around the world on a variety of topics related to coaching, gender and sport. She also serves on the Board of Directors for WeCOACH and is a faculty member for the NCAA Women Coaches Academies.
Meghan Morgan, Girls in the Game
A Notre Dame graduate and Chicago Innovation Award Winner, Morgan is Executive Director of Girls in the Game. The organization serves over 3,600 girls ages 7 to 18 annually, working to ensure that girls have the opportunities they deserve to grow into strong, confident leaders with bright futures who can affect change in their own lives and in the community around them. Each program is age-appropriate and offers participants the opportunity to be physically active, learn about healthy lifestyle choices, and improve their leadership skills in a safe, all-girl setting.
Dick and Terri Vitale, ESPN College Basketball Analyst and His Daughter, Former Notre Dame Collegiate Tennis Player
Vitale joined ESPN's basketball coverage in 1979 and has never looked back. The former college and professional coach has become a beloved figure across America and a staple on the network's biggest games. A celebrated author, speaker and philanthropist, he was honored for his career in television sports in 2019 with the Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. Vitale is also a sports parent, having watched both his daughters attend the University of Notre Dame on scholarships for Women's Tennis. He will be joined at the conference by his daughter Terri who is involved in a number of charitable endeavors, including the Notre Dame Monogram Club, Jimmy V's Foundation for Cancer Research and All Faith's Food Bank. Terri's daughter Sydney will also join to talk about the role of sports parents and girls in sports.
Dr. Ramona Cox, Associate Athletic Director, Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL)
Dr. Ramona Cox is an Associate Athletic Director with Detroit PAL. She is responsible for PAL's girls sports programming that includes volleyball and softball. She also oversees the “Girls Changing the Game” program that seeks to increase the number of girls that participate in sport and physical activity and the number of innovative quality programs for girls like the Future Coaches Leadership Academy. Dr. Cox is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she played on the women's volleyball team. She later received her Masters degree in Sports Administration from Wayne State University and obtained her Ph.D. in Kinesiology with a concentration in sport psychology from Michigan State University in 2014. Her research interests include sports based youth development and increased sports and physical activity opportunities for girls.
Dr. Joseph Congeni, Director Sports Medicine, Akron Children's Hospital
Dr. Congeni is the Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital as well a Professor of Pediatrics at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he received his medical degree from NEOMED in 1984. Dr. Congeni is currently a team physician for the University of Akron and Archbishop Hoban High School. He has received numerous awards, is a lead author on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Baseball/Softball Policy Statement, and appears regularly in the media. He has done extensive research on backpack injuries, steroid use, stress fractures and repetitive stress injuries as well as concussions.
Dr. Blaise Congeni, Director Pediatric Infectious Disease, Akron Children's Hospital
Dr. Congeni is the Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease and a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Akron Children's Hospital, as well a Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Biochemistry at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). He received his medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine. His work includes vaccine studies and antibiotic research.
Derek Brown, Founder 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 also serves as Restorative Justice Coordinator at St. Agatha's Church, where he facilitates talking/peace circles with parents, youth, and others throughout the community, schools, and the Cook County Jail. His work has been featured by outlets including CNN, ABC News, Vice News, and Al-Jazeera.
Dr. Carrie Hastings, Licensed Clinical & Sports Psychologist
Dr. Hastings is a licensed clinical and sport psychologist. A graduate University of Notre Dame, she was a hurdler and sprinter on the track team. She also obtained her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University and is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Hastings is currently the team psychologist for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and is listed in the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology and Mental Training Registry. She presents nationally on the topic of Trauma-Sensitive and Responsive Coaching, Depression & Suicide, and Bullying & Hazing.
Kory Minor, Speaker & Play Like a Champion Trainer
Kory Minor serves as a Los Angeles area Trainer for the Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series. Kory is a University of Notre Dame graduate, where he was a 4-year star defensive player and team captain for Lou Holtz’s Fighting Irish Football Team. After graduating with a business degree, Kory was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers played 3 seasons as a linebacker and special teams standout for the Carolina Panthers. Kory is the Founder & CEO of Kory Minor Industries (KMI), a training and development company for individuals and organizations.
Derrick Perry, Mental Health Professional
Derrick traveled the world during his time in the Marine Corps. Derrick is a husband, father of four beautiful children, mentor, and a role model for his community. Derrick has spent the past 10 years working in the mental health field with high risk youth and families and is currently the supervisor of his community’s High-Fidelity Wraparound Program in two counties. Derrick is well versed in ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and trauma informed care, knowledgeable in SEL (Social Emotional Learning), and well-known advocate and volunteer leader of restorative justice initiatives and practices in South Bend, IN.
Leprechaun Lynette, University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
In 2019, Leprechaun Lynette became the first female leprechaun to represent the University of Notre Dame since the mascot began patrolling sidelines in 1965. A native of Ohio, Lynette Wukie was the captain of her high school cheerleading and dance squads. The rising senior is majoring in Film, Television and Theater at Notre Dame and will be interning with NBC this summer.
2020 Virtual Conference Schedule
Play Like a Champion's Annual Pre-Conference Retreat is Virtual Too!
The theme for the 2020 Pre-Conference Retreat was Sacred Spaces. Allowing time for prayer, reflection and discussion, the retreat transported athletic leaders on a virtual journey to sacred spaces on the beautiful Notre Dame campus culminating in a celebration of our personal sacred spaces in our own home communities. The experience helped attendees reflect upon the graces we encounter in athletic ministry. The 2021 Retreat is planned for Thursday, June 17, 2021 and information will be made available with conference registration in January 2021.
*All times for Retreat and Conference are Eastern Daylight Time. Subject to change.
Kinship: Community through Sports
June 23rd: 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Tuesday Sessions Include...
Clark Power, Play Like a Champion's Mission
Fr. Greg Boyle,
Compassion & Kinship
An Interview with Jay Wright
Homies Javier & Miguel
The Importance of Sports
Breakout Sessions &
A Team for Every Child
End of Day Community
Meeting & Wrap-Up
Responsive Kinship: Engaging Girls, Sport Parents and Trauma
June 24th: 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Wednesday Sessions Include...
10:30am Early Start for
Youth Partner Summit
(New Clinic Video Series Unveiled!)
Dick & Terri Vitale
Positive Sport Parenting
Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Dr. Ramona Cox & Meghan Morgan
Female Coaches & Girls in Sports
Dr. Carrie Hastings, Derrick Perry & Catherine Matthews
Trauma Responsive Coaching
Breakout Sessions &
End of Day Community
Meeting & Wrap-Up
Kinship: A Call to Mentorship
June 25th: 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Thursday Sessions Include...
11:00am Early Start for those interested in High School Partner Opportunities
Hall of Fame Coach
The Power of Mentorship
Doctors Joe & Blaise Congeni, Sports in a COVID-19 World
Peace Circles and Team Building
Breakout Sessions &
End of Day Community Meeting
& Conference Wrap-up
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. COVID-19 has created an even greater need for our partner communities and we can't do this alone. 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!
“This conference was the best professional conference of my career. It was a life changing experience. Through athletics, we have the power to change the world”
~ 2019 Conference Participant
Some attendees from the 2019 Conference pose for a photo following a friendly competition.
What are people saying about the Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference?
“Being able to meet with coaches from over 26 states gives you great perspective and lessons on how to run youth programs."
"A life altering experience for anyone involved in athletics."
"I was inspired by the research, professionalism and passions of the presenters. I feel spiritually and socially nourished thanks to our retreat, the wonderful liturgies, meaningful prayers service, fellowship and shared meals. Upon leaving, I am eager to do more for the young athletes entrusted to me and through athletic ministry."
~2020 Conference Participants
"We believe every child has a right to play. If someone has the right to play, coaches have a special duty. This conference, its attendees, panelists, speakers, partner presenters and coaches opened the door to so much great information. I've come home and researched all of the above people, bought books, read articles and picked up a movie. The conference hasn't stopped for me.”
~ 2017 Conference Participant
“Thank you so incredibly much for an insightful and informative conference at Play Like a Champion. It is an honor to attend every year, and I hope you and the staff know what an impact you each make in sports. I am grateful for all that I learn, and I look forward to continuing to attend every summer.” ~ 2018 Conference Participant
"I was very happy to have been part of it. There were so many excellent speakers and valuable information and community shared. I only wish I had known about it years sooner.” ~ 2018 Conference Participant