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Returning to Play

As youth and high school sports across the country consider how to safely return to play from the COVID-19 shutdown, the following resources provide valuable information and guidelines that can support these efforts. Due to the nature of cases and local government decisions, every community will be different; we strongly encourage you to consult local public health officials and obey all local guidelines.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  Considerations for Youth Sports

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS):  Planning Ahead for Return to Sports  |  Guidelines Overview  |   Guidelines for Opening Up High School Athletics & Activities

United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC):  Returning to Training and Sport Event Planning

US Soccer #PlayOn:  Grassroots Soccer Recommendation Guide

Aspen Institute Project Play:  Return to Play Risk Assessment Tool  |  Expert Webinar: How Should Youth Sports Return to Play?

Connecting Coaches

During this COVID-19 crisis, Play Like a Champion is urging coaches to stay in-touch with athletes. This contact is critical; it reminds young athletes that they matter, that their coaches care for them, and that this "pause" in play can be an opportunity for them to continue to improve. Play Like a Champion’s GROW Approach emphasizes Relationship building within teams. Try these relationship builders to strengthen relationships on your team:

  • Call or text athletes regularly to check-in.

  • Create a team "group chat" & message your team daily.

  • Host virtual team meetings & get-togethers. 

  • Send your team a "Joke of the Day."

  • Encourage your athletes to express a "Daily Gratitude" within your team's group text or video meetings.

  • Work to build athlete mental skills.

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Check out Play Like a Champion's Weekly Coach Note Series on the 9 Mental Skills of Successful Athletes 

Level I: Basic Skills   |   Level II: Preparatory Skills   |   Level III: Performance Skills

  • Set up a team meeting to have a moral discussion (Email Play Like a Champion for a list of topics).

  • Send out motivational quotes periodically that you can find on websites such as Inspirational Sports Quotes.

  • Honor your 8th grade or Senior athletes with letters and messages written by the entire team.

  • Assign team building tasks such as drawing a picture of the most memorable moment from last season.

  • Assign a "theme for the week." Remember Play Like a Champion's "O - Ownership" in the GROW approach. Instead of the coach selecting the theme, have the team vote on the topic. Then, have athletes brainstorm and design activities around that theme. Themes could be Teamwork; Mental Toughness; Creativity.

  • Introduce new skills to your team such as mindfulnesspositive mental imagerypositive self-talk or yoga.

  • Conduct a team virtual movie night around a sport theme movie. Let your team vote on the movie selection. You can also follow this with a discussion on the movie's main themes and how they might relate to your team.

  • Do a virtual team workout together using a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Google Meet or Facebook. Select specific days/times each week to conduct this exercise to help form a routine and provide something for athletes (and yourself) to look forward to.

  • Have athletes watch film for 15 minutes each day and make notes on what they learn.

  • Find motivational videos on YouTube and send them to your team. Encourage your team to send similar videos to each other.

  • Create your own motivational message and video and challenge your team to do the same.

  • Invite your team to have a poetry competition with team members authoring a poem about your sport.

  • Initiate team building activities and games (See section below for specifics).


Coaches, remember that "PLAY" is essential to your athlete's GROWth as players and as people. Set a goal each week to "play" with your team which means engaging in activities that are FUN. Try one of the following:

Connecting Coaches

Support for Parents

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Our role as parents is to love our children, provide for their basic needs and attend to their whole development, which includes their physical, emotional, moral and spiritual health. In the midst of the "new world" created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Play Like a Champion has tools and advice available to support parents as they navigate this new reality.



Parents express love for your children every day with words and actions. Embrace them in a hug. Use the words, “I love you.”  Particularly in days that are full of uncertainty, we all need affirmation and encouragement.



With the absence of organized sport, parents should encourage their children to get exercise every day. Exercise is good for the body, mind and soul - both

for your child and for yourself. Get moving together as a family. Visit Play Like a Champion’s Active Kids page for ideas and resources from across the internet. Select an activity that your entire family will find fun and line-up friendly competitions among your family members. Keep a log of your daily movements where you can set goals and track your progress.



We are all struggling with disruption in our routine. Children rely on routines constructed by others to help them feel safe and to know what comes next. With this interruption, parents and children will experience a variety of difficult feelings, such as anxiety and fear; these may manifest in behavioral issues, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, testing limits and meltdowns. As parents, acknowledge these feelings are real. Avoid saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Help your children to express how they are feeling by having regular family discussions about feelings, normalizing their existence.



Work to find meaning during this difficult period of time. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also many stories of people sacrificing and supporting one another in amazing ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with hopeful information and find a way your family can contribute to the good amidst the challenge.



As a family, make time every day to pray together and to read scripture or another spiritual reading as a family. Additionally, take time every evening as a family to express gratitude. Expressing daily gratitude for the blessings that we have will remind us where goodness and God’s grace exist. Finally, remember to incorporate laughter into your family’s daily routine.


Play Like a Champion has created a workshop dedicated to helping parents during COVID-19. Featuring tips for handling stress, getting kids moving and practicing mindfulness, this unique workshop is available to view online or use to host a virtual Parent Workshop in your local community. Slides from the presentation in the video are available below and those interested can email Play Like a Champion to request template letters that you can use to invite parents to a virtual workshop and follow-up with parent "small groups". With many parents facing the overwhelming prospect of working at home (or facing job loss) while parenting, teaching and coaching their kids, this resource can provide a welcomed source of comfort and tools for managing the challenges faced.

Support for Parents

Resources for Athletes

With practices and competitions still postponed for many, athletes will need to find unique ways to attend to their physical and mental health. Play Like a Champion has searched the internet to provide several of the best resources for young athletes to keep them physically and mentally fit through vigorous daily exercise. From general exercise to sport-specific drills, our Keeping Kids Active page has links to websites and multimedia that will keep kids moving while COVID-19 puts organized sports on the sideline. In addition, athletes can use this "pause" in play to develop mental skills that will help them during the crisis while preparing them to return to the field stronger than ever. Click the link below to visit the page and start exploring resources now!

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Resources for Athletes

The Latest News on COVID-19 & Youth Sports



Each day brings a torrent of news and information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our local and national community. While discerning what news is relevant to you can be an exhausting task, Play Like a Champion makes getting the latest news regarding the impact on youth and high school sports easy. Simply subscribe to our Friday Morning Rally via the link below and you'll get the latest news delivered to your inbox for free every Friday morning at 8:00 am. The Rally covers news and information that coaches, parents and administrators need to know, scouring the internet for the week's most important stories so that you don't have to. We'll even try to mix in some good news from the world of sports. Sign-up today and stay on top of the world of youth and high school sports during this unprecedented time. 

Browse Past Issues:  Friday, September 4th   |   Friday, June 5th   |    Friday, June 12th

Follow us on Social Media:   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Instagram   |   YouTube

Keep up with the latest on the coronavirus and sports as it happens. Follow Play Like a Champion on social media to get daily news updates, unique stories and useful information for youth and high school sports.

Latest News

Donate to Support Our Efforts!

As our world experiences a crisis of unprecedented magnitude due to COVID-19, there is an urgency in our mission today. Play Like a Champion's national community of youth and high school sports partners have shared heartbreaking stories about athletes losing out on seasons and having their athletic careers ended prematurely. The anxiety that accompanies this loss and uncertainty continues to mount as the pandemic radically changes lives across America. During this time, Play Like a Champion is walking with our partners in kinship as we work daily to provide coaches, parents and athletes with support and resources to keep them connected, informed and hopeful.


For many, this is a major inconvenience and means a significant, uncomfortable and unwanted change in our lives. But for some children, this crisis is a matter of life and death. Play Like a Champion works with children and adolescents who live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. When schools close and after-school sports opportunities are cancelled, many of these children are left without food or a safe

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shelter; the caring coaches who encourage, mentor, and love them leave a large void when they're not able to be around. As one of our partners in the North Lawndale Athletic and Recreation Association (NLARA) noted, their work with youth in sport is “saving lives on the front end.”


We are asking for your support to help Play Like a Champion continue our work providing resources to all our partners and supporting the children, parents and coaches who are most in-need of our services during this difficult time. Please consider a contribution to enable us to continue this urgent mission.

Donate Now
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