Magazine article Momentum

CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS: Charting a New Direction for Catholic School Sports

Magazine article Momentum

CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS: Charting a New Direction for Catholic School Sports

Article excerpt

Catholic schools' sports programs can rightfully claim a privileged place in the history of sports in America. They have produced some of our nation's greatest teams and athletes and provided cherished memories for millions of children. Yet as any thoughtful school principal, athletic director or coach knows, the success of a school-based sports program should not be measured by tides and trophies, but by its contribution to students' education. Clearly there is no reason for a Catholic school, or any school, for that matter, to go to the trouble and expense of supporting sports programs if they have little or no commensurate educational value. The challenge today for all educational leaders is to articulate the real value of school sports and whether we provide participants with the direction and support that they need. The challenge for Catholic school leaders, in particular, is to make sure that Catholic school sports programs reflect the Gospel values that we profess.

I founded the Play Like a Champion Today educational program because I discovered that athletic directors, coaches and parents, whether in Catholic or non-Catholic schools, lacked a clear and agreed-upon understanding of what the mission of youth sports should be. Although they strongly and rightfully maintained that sports should be fun and should build character, my personal experience, as well as the research that I and others were doing on youth sports indicated a significant gap between our preaching and our practice.

Sports are supposed to be games that children play, but too many coaches and parents turn sports into high-pressured work. Sports are supposed to develop character, but coaches and parents seem to care more about winning. Sports are supposed to include all children, but far too many children do not play because their families are poor or because their coaches don't think they are "good enough."

Play Like a Champion Today has a twofold mission: 1) To uphold all children's right to play in a sports environment that nurtures their hill development: spiritual and moral as well as physical; and 2) to prepare athletic administrators and coaches to become effective youth sports educators. Research over the past decade shows that consistent participation in sports leads to significant health benefits, higher grades and lower truancy and dropout rates, lower delinquency rates, greater resiliency and more chic participation. Research also indicates that sports may well be the most effective way we have as a society for fostering children's sense of fairness and responsibility for die common good. …

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