Play Like a Champion Today® National Sports Leadership Conference set for June 22-24

Author: Jane Ralser

Play Like a Champion Today®

The Play Like a Champion Today® (PLACT) Program of the University of Notre Dame will hold its 7th annual National Sports Leadership Conference on the Notre Dame campus June 22-24.

This annual conference is perhaps one of the largest gatherings of youth and high school sports coaches, athletic directors and administrators in the country preparing leaders from both public and church sponsored sports organizations through coach and parental educational programs.

Leaders from a variety of fields – sports, psychology, education, medicine, athletic administration, theology, sociology, exercise science and business – will explore with participants the many ways in which the youth and high school sports experience shapes the moral, character and spiritual development of children through their high school years. It is a defining opportunity to learn the latest methods in sports-based character growth initiatives and to network with sports leaders sharing best practices around the country.

Play Like a Champion Today® partners with schools and sports organizations by offering coaching personnel and parents interactive workshops in all areas of champion character education. In the seven years since the program launched, more than 20,000 coaches and 5,000 parents have completed PLACT workshops and 95 percent say they would recommend it to others. These participating adults have in turn touched the lives of more than a half-million young athletes in North America alone.

This year’s conference will focus on developing the safe and nurturing sports environment for all ages through high school with a special emphasis on the issue of bullying and a team approach to bully resolution. “In many ways schools can learn from good sports and coaches practical and sustained methods to solve the bullying issue. Coaches working with their teams to look out for each other rarely have sustained bullying issues” said Clark Power, PLACT director and a professor of liberal studies and psychology at Notre Dame, in a recent interview.

In addition to the conference, this year an inaugural half day Champion Gridiron Coaches Clinic is scheduled for June 22. Participating coaches will engage with such football greats as Reggie Brooks, former Notre Dame All-American and pro football player; former Notre Dame football coaching staff members Bill Lewis and Bill Reagan; and Bill Doba, former Washington State head coach, along with other football-notables, discussing the Xs and Os of offensive and defensive strategy and best practices of the winning coach.

Conference highlights this year will include the Champion Keynote Address “Social Concerns for Today’s Athlete” offered by Grant Teaff, president of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee; and dinner in the Notre Dame Stadium press box with Theresa Grentz, head coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, providing insights into “Lessons Learned Playing a Child’s Game." Day two will bring together Muffet McGraw, head coach of the Notre Dame 2012 NCAA National Championship finalist women’s basketball team; Martin Ingelsby of the Notre Dame men’s basketball program; Christine Halfpenny, Notre Dame women’s lacrosse head coach; Deanna Gumpf, head coach of the Notre Dame softball team; and Mik Aoki, head coach of the Notre Dame baseball team for a Notre Dame Collegiate Coaches Panel leading an open discussion forum with conference attendees.

Some of this year’s noteworthy conference sessions will highlight topics such as: Creating a GROW-th Oriented Champion Sports Culture; the U.S. Sports Development System; Educating for a Champion Sport Environment; and A View from the Other Side: Self-Esteem v. Self-Confidence in Youth Sports. In addition breakout sessions relating to coach leadership, marketing for your league/school, presentation skills for sports leaders and championship sports parenting will be offered.

The Play Like a Champion Today® team is led by Power, a 30-year member of the Notre Dame faculty; Kristin Komyatte Sheehan, Notre Dame graduate and Monogram Club member; and Oscar McBride, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate and four-year letter winner under former head football coach Lou Holtz.

Full Conference details and registration are available here. For more information about Play Like a Champion Today® and its educational programs offered year round, visit or contact the PLACT office on campus at 574-631-9981 or