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Play Like a Champion Partners with NCEA at Soul of Youth Sports Conference in Kansas City


The Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series was a proud sponsor of the recently completed NCEA Soul of Youth Sports Conference, which took place in Kansas City on February 21-23, 2018. Featuring speakers and attendees from across the country, the conference was designed to provide professional development to diocesan leaders, athletic directors, coaches, program coordinators and educators who are involved with sports at the Catholic youth or high school levels. Several of the speakers and attendees are a part of the Play Like a Champion family.


Beginning with Mass each morning and featuring a variety of keynote speakers and breakout sessions, the conference touched on topics ranging from building mission-driven athletic programs to team spiritual formation and even contributing to a school's advancement efforts. The event opened on Wednesday evening with a keynote from University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh, who spoke about taking his team to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. On the second night, attendees were treated to dinner and a tour of Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. 

Play Like a Champion staff members Kristin Sheehan and Peter Piscitello were in attendance, with Piscitello speaking during the second day of the conference. Titled Winning with Purpose, his presentation sought to provide insight into how Catholic schools and leagues can realize their mission as an integral part of competing for championships. From understanding the “Theology of Play” to the experience of FLOW, Piscitello used concepts discussed as part of Play Like a Champion clinics and workshops to demonstrate how we can work to maximize the physical and mental development of student athletes while maintaining an authentically Catholic approach to sports.


Also speaking was Play Like a Champion partner Chad Masters of Fr. Tolton Catholic High School in Columbia, MO. Masters presentation focused on assuring that high school athletic programs serve as an extension of a school's Catholic identity. He detailed the four key areas of focus at Fr. Tolton: Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit, discussing how the Catholic faith is intentionally integrated into athletics and promoted through the school culture. Chad's excellent presentation (and the success of this approach) was highlighted by his mention that 12 non-Catholic student-athletes have been moved to join the Catholic faith since Fr. Tolton opened in 2011. 


Rounding out the speakers with the last presentation of the conference was Phil Baniewicz, President of Play Like a Champion partner Maur Hill-Mount Academy. A dynamic presenter, Baniewicz's presentation on Athletic Leadership According to the Rule of Saint Benedict looked at 10 principles from St. Benedict that provide a foundation for instilling both faith and leadership in young athletes. His insightful presentation provided a fitting close to the three-day conference by once again demonstrating that our Catholic tradition includes brilliant strategies for forming young men and women on the field and off of it.

In addition to these speakers, Play Like a Champion counted nearly 20 partners in attendance during the event, including those from Joliet (IL), Rapid City (SD), Orlando (FL), Kansas City (KS), Oklahoma City (OK), Indianapolis (IN), and Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin (TX). We're always proud of our partners and enjoyed seeing so many represent the mission of Catholic athletic programs at this event. 


This post was written by Peter Piscitello, Manager of Outreach & Operations Support for the Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series.

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