Play Like a Champion Today
Virtual Sports Leadership Conference
"Dream Big. Take Action."
Play Like a Champion Today's Annual Sports Leadership Conference takes place in June each year. The 2021 edition was virtual, providing an exciting opportunity for our entire national community to engage with fellow athletic leaders, learn from a fantastic group of speakers, and be inspired. If you missed the event live, you can watch select sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 on-demand by clicking the respective link. We look forward to returning to an in-person event in 2022 at the University of Notre Dame, as we celebrate the 15th anniversary of this annual gathering! More information on next summer's event will be announced in early 2022.
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. Attendees of 2021'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 fantastic speakers. The conference addressed challenges in light of social injustice and the COVID-19 crisis while celebrating the resilience of the coaches and administrators who helped children through the past year. By encouraging participants to "Dream Big" and "Take Action", the event sought to look ahead to a brighter future, inspiring us to create opportunities for all children to participate in a developmentally-focused sports experience.
"This conference was amazing! As a coach of multiple sports, both boys and girls, this conference fed me with helpful and useful information each day. I am inspired... Thank you for putting together such an awesome virtual event!"
2021 Featured Speakers
Mike Singletary - A member of both the Pro and College Football Hall of Fames, Singletary was a legend on the field who has turned his attention to a career in coaching and service to children.
Dr. Lisa Merritt - The Executive Director of the Multicultural Health Institute has a unique perspective on the past year and the difficulties we continue to face in our communities to ensure everyone's safety and well-being.
Bob Atkins - A former school nurse in the city of Camden, Atkins directs New Jersey Health Initiatives, a statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He is an associate professor at Rutgers University-Camden.
Dan Hart - Hart is a distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Camden and vice chancellor for the campus. He is the author of Renewing Democracy in Young America and is co-authoring a new book with Bob Atkins.
Dr. Amanda Zelechoski - A psychologist and lawyer specializing in trauma, Zelechoski is an Associate Professor at Valparaiso University. In the past year, this wife and mother of 3 co-founded Pandemic Parenting to provide research-based support to families.
Arshay Cooper - Arshay is a Rower, Benjamin Franklin award-winning author, the protagonist of the critical acclaim film A Most Beautiful Thing. He works with the George Pocock Foundation and A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund to bring rowing to under-resourced communities
Click the image above to view this year's Conference Program, featuring the full schedule.
The 2021 conference featured an outstanding group of speakers who are experts in coaching, community sports development and moral and spiritual leadership. Attendees had the opportunity to interact in breakout sessions that inspired a renewed vision for youth sports and challenged each of us to take action in our communities. Click the program link to view more information about the 2021 schedule and conference sessions. Videos of select sessions can be found online via the links below:
Play Like a Champion waived this year's conference fee so that everyone interested could attend. 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 to support our mission. 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.
"With the news of COVID-19 bombarding our news feeds on a daily basis, it was so refreshing to take a step back and focus on the big picture of sports, and where we want to go long term." ~ 2020 Virtual Conference Attendee
2021 Virtual Conference Themes
*All times for Retreat and Conference are Eastern Daylight Time. Subject to change.
Day 1: Teamwork
June 23rd from 12:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT
Wednesday sessions highlighted the importance of working in kinship to improve the youth and high school sports experience. Speakers and interactive breakouts offered insight into how we have responded to the challenges of the past year and focused on practical ways to promote healing and health moving forward on our teams and in our organizations and communities.
Day 2: Inclusion
June 24th from 12:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT
Thursday sessions inspired us to expand opportunities for all children through sports. The youth and high school sports experience has the power to transform lives, developing moral communities and a more just society. Through speakers and interactive breakouts, attendees received tools that helped them to realize these benefits in their own world and the lives of student-athletes.
Pray with us at our Annual Pre-Conference Retreat:
Encountering God Through Sport: A Retreat in Ignatian Spirituality
Our 2021 Pre-Conference Retreat theme was rooted in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Jesuit spirituality teaches that we encounter God in all things. The retreat offered the opportunity to reflect upon the losses and graces of this past year and how to discover God's grace in and through specific athletic moments, while strengthening our resolve to become authentic sport ministers serving athletes. Preparations are already underway for next year's retreat, to be held on June 16, 2022. Look for more information in early 2022!
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!
What are people saying about the Play Like a Champion Today Conference?
98% of participants in the 2020 Virtual Conference said the conference met or exceeded expectations.
Here are a few of their comments:
“Your team did an exceptional job pivoting from an in-person conference to a virtual one. You ran a truly professional event. The speaker line-up you provided was impressive. You recruited people with admirable expertise, success, and bona fides in their respective fields who were also ready and able to present well. This entire experience exceeded my expectations. Tremendous job. I'm immensely grateful that I could be included.”
"Conference was outstanding! I was a first time participant and loved the content. I can use it both at a professional and personal level."
“I really appreciate having this virtual conference - I would not have been able to attend otherwise. I feel I have learned a lot and can't wait to see how to put some of these ideas to work on both my team and in our sport program.”
"The virtual conference really exceeded my expectations. I have been to the Conference a few times & this year going virtual, I guess I did not know what to expect. I loved that after we heard all the speakers, we went into break out rooms & we were able to share our thoughts. You all did an amazing job putting this all together on Zoom! I was really excited each day to hear the next speakers."
"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."