Friday, June 17, 2016

Family and Sports

Today's blog was written by Robert Fischer. Robert is a senior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Finance. He is also a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion founding director Professor Clark Power and program director Kristin Sheehan. In addition to his studies, Robert is a member of the Notre Dame cheerleading team. 

One of the most interesting and divisive topics heading into this baseball season was the retirement of Adam LaRoche after he was asked to limit his son's time in the locker room. This issue caused a great divide and was a source of debate among sports media and athletes. The largest issue was the role of family in sports, and where the line between family and business has to be drawn in professional sports. While some believe that the family nature of sports, especially one like baseball, should not be impeded, others think that at the professional level that sports are more of a job and that players should do whatever is best for the business. The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle, with times for family to be around and other times when the players should be focused on the goals at hand. Many of the arguments about the LaRoche issue is not what the right balance is, but if LaRoche crossed this line and or if Kenny Williams, the White Sox Executive Vice President, went too far in asking LaRoche to stop bringing his son as much.

In many other sports, this debate would not happen because in most sports, the locker room is seen as too masculine or vulgar for children to be around, so athletes find other ways for their families to be involved, such as Steph Curry bringing his daughter to press conferences or football players who bring their kids on the field after a game. It seems that baseball locker rooms do not have this machismo culture which would prevent children from being in locker rooms. Another factor about baseball which would make family participation greater than other sports is the long season, almost twice as much as any other sport, with much more time spent on the road and away from family while traveling. This is why baseball is pretty family friendly for the most part, with clubs allowing players children to be around as batboys or water boys during practices. The problem arises when the presence of these kids hampers the goals of the club, which is what Kenny Williams thought might happen after the club tried to turnaround from a bad season last year. While no person should be able to tell a person what to do in their family life, baseball teams are still businesses, which means that they can determine what a person can do during their work time. As much as Adam LaRoche may have disagreed with what the team was asking him to do, he also realized that it was a decision which he would have to make because the team was compensating him nicely so that he can help the team win, and if they felt that having his son around was going against this goal, he would not be able to go against them. Another issue which people have brought up in regards to this issue is that his son was now old enough, 14, that he could understand that his dad had to work and that he could not be around him all the time, no longer being able to travel with the team and be a constant presence.

Other members of the team felt this same way, with some asking Kenny Williams to ask LaRoche to limit the time his son spent with the team. And this is the heart of the problem. Not that LaRoche wanted to spend time with his son, or that the organization wanted him to limit this time somewhat, but instead that there is a place for family in sports, but where that line is changes with the sport, situation, and even the player. In this case, the situation was that the team was trying to change the culture in their locker room and having LaRoche’s son there so much did not fit with the new culture, while LaRoche was under the personal opinion that his son’s presence should not concern anyone. The difference of these opinions is what caused the conflict, and what ultimately turned this into a headline on every sports show in the country because each person has their own opinion on family in sports, and a topic as important as family is sure to bring out strong emotions. I think that it is important to remember that professional sports, no matter how much money is involved, are games which are played by children for fun. Taking the children and family aspect completely away from the game is to lose what makes the game what it is. In this way, while some may argue that other businesses do not allow families to be at the workplace as often as professional sports teams do because it is the best thing for those businesses, the family and child-like origin of the game makes it so that keeping a familial basis to the sport will help business by keeping its appeal to everyday people. Because of this, the family aspect of sports should be a concentration for any major sports team, not only because it seems like the right thing to do, but because they can actually benefit from it. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Attitude on Paying Collegiate Athletes and Draft Eligibility

Today's blog was written by Robert Dean. Robert is a senior Biology major at the University of Notre Dame and a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion Today Founding Director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not of the Play Like a Champion Today Program.

As an incoming freshman I remember supporting the idea of paying collegiate athletes. Having researched the revenue that major sports programs generate, I was adamant about the idea of sharing this income with the athletes that provide the “entertainment” that people pay to watch. I believed that schools were essentially robbing their athletes of a significant amount of money that they deserved, and were exploiting them in what I deemed to be an archaic system.

photo courtesy of

Yet, four years later I could not disagree with my younger-self more. I firmly believe that collegiate athletes receive benefits that far exceed the necessary obligation of their respective universities. By attending some of the most prestigious universities in the country, collegiate athletes are given myriad opportunities. Not only do they obtain an education that will provide them with knowledge and experiences to last a lifetime, but they will also have the opportunity to develop friendships and other relationships. Finally, and most importantly, attending college provides eighteen year old adolescents the opportunity to mature both athletically and personally. Through the guidance of coaches and teachers around them, college provides athletes an invaluable growth opportunity. The combination of these experiences far exceeds any monetary reward that the universities could ever provide, and also helps to make each athlete into a better member of society.

photo courtesy of

However, I must also note that I believe that the debate surrounding paying college athletes directly coincides with the argument involving when to allow student-athletes to become professional athletes. While I believe that collegiate athletes do not need to receive additional monetary benefits, I also believe that athletes should be allowed the opportunity to turn professional in any sport prior to college. If a high-schooler is talented enough to play a professional sport, and also has no interest in furthering themselves through the college experience, the laws of sports should not prevent them from living out their dreams. I believe that athletes should be allowed to become a professional prior to college, but once they are committed to competing collegiately they should be forced to finish their degree before they are allowed to become professional. In this system, athletes would be forced to either completely engage themselves in the collegiate experience and earn a degree, or chose to not play a collegiate sport. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Basketball and Nature

Today's blog was written by Trenton Templetom. Trenton is a senior accounting major and theology minor at the University of Notre Dame and a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion's Professor Clark Power and Kristin Sheehan.

When someone who is not familiar with the sport of basketball sees a game, on the surface, there might not be a ton of science that goes into it. One might see Steph Curry just running around attempting to get open so that he can shoot the ball and hope it goes in, as it often does. However, new research from the University of Las Palmas de GranCanaria (Spain) recognized quite a bit of science when they observed more than 6,000 NBA games, and their findings are quite intriguing. Researchers found that basketball games resemble different activities that arise in nature.

There is a hypothesis in science called the Red Queen Evolutionary Hypothesis. It contemplates how species must continuously improve in order to simply maintain their status within the environment where they co-evolve alongside other living things. This same hypothesis, when applied to basketball, is highlighted and researchers found that basketball teams can be considered self-organized systems. In other words, basketball teams tend to manage game flow and adapt when new obstacles are presented to them. Teams repeat certain strategies if they continue to work--such as keeping a high offensive tempo, and stop any activities that do not appear to work such as fouling the opposing team’s big man. Faced with a problem, each team can propose several valid solutions. For example, rather than attacking the basket, a team decides to shoot outside jump shots. Many different actions can happen, and sometimes simultaneously. The game play is dictated by each teams’ creativity.

A closer resemblance to nature can be seen at the end of games during the final minute where teams really intensify in hopes of a victory. De Saa Guerra, the head researcher on this topic, highlights the similarities of nature and basketball in the final minute, “In a predator-prey system, for instance, or in a natural changing environment with limited resources, species evolve in their arms race by adapting. They continuously fight and give it their all just to survive, not to ensure their triumph. In such cases, a small adaptive advantage can go a long way. Likewise, basketball teams must fight extremely hard simply to make it to that last minute, and any advantage -as small as it may seem- can be critical at that moment." Whatever happened leading up to that final moment no longer matters, and any mistake, head start or slip-up can determine the outcome of the game.

Just like in nature, the team that is better able to adapt to the changing environment wins the competition. The resemblance is eye opening because most people, even researchers, look at basketball as a random sport dictated by probabilities. However, a closer look reveals that the flow of basketball is quite similar to what we observe in nature. Maybe that is why we love basketball so much: because it highlights the primitive nature in us. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Feeding the Positive Dog

Today's blog was written by Keenan Bailey, a current Notre Dame senior and a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion Founding Director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan. Keenan is majoring in American Studies and is from Pompano Beach, FL. He works as a Recruiting Analyst with Notre Dame Football.

Master Your StressThere was once a troubled young boy who traveled from his village deep into the forest to speak with a wise old man. After traveling deep into the forest, the boy found the wise old man and said to him, “I have a problem: I feel like there are two dogs inside of me. One dog is positive, loving and optimistic, but the other dog is negative, angry and pessimistic. I feel like these two dogs are constantly fighting inside of me. I don’t know which dog will win, so I came to seek your advice.” The wise old man laughed and replied, “Boy, the answer to your question is obvious. You say that these two dogs fight inside you, but that you do not know which will win? I know which dog will win…the one you feed the most. So feed the positive dog”.

The American Institute of Stress recently publicized a study revealing that 75% of doctor’s visits are stress-related, that 40% of stressed Americans have less healthy diets than unstressed Americans, and that nearly half of those stressed Americans lose sleep every night. Whether it be unhappiness or unhealthy habits within daily life, or the crippling effect it has on athletic teams, stress is a major debilitating aspect of modern American life. Luckily there is a cure for the daunting epidemic that is stress, and it doesn’t cost a dime! By feeding the positive dog each day, we cultivate the trait of positive energy, which is kryptonite to stress.

Every day we have a choice to feed the negative dog orthe positive dog. It is easy to feed the negative dog, it requires almost no effort at all and is the far more convenient option. On the other hand, consistently feeding the positive dog requires sacrifice and commitment, but the effects of feeding the positive dog reveal that the sacrifices to do so are far overshadowed by the benefits of cultivating positive energy.

In her landmark research, University of North Carolina psychologist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson tested the effect of negative and positive thoughts on the human brain, and her findings revealed extraordinary results! After hundreds of experiments, Fredrickson discovered that positive thought expands the brain and broadens cognition. Ultimately her research highlighted the benefit of positive thought in providing a competitive advantage, as the broader perspectives granted by positive thought promote more efficient and productive performance in decision making.

When coaches feed the positive dog, they cultivate positive thought and subsequently eliminate the negative effects that stress would otherwise inflict. These positive coaches experience expanded cognition and are more effective decision makers, which results in more victories. Further, if coaches instill this same choice, to feed the positive dog each day, within his team then the result is one cohesive group of stressless, effective decision makers.

Feeding the positive dog at the start of training camp, when the possibilities of a new season are abundant, is easy. So is feeding the positive dog when the team is winning. However, feeding the positive dog after a difficult loss, or in the middle of a sloppy practice is much harder to do. In the end, feeding the positive dog in every instance will benefit not only the coach, but the team that he or she oversees. When compared to the power of positive energy, the hindrance of stress appears to be nothing but a small temptation, so I challenge you to make a commitment to yourself, to your team, to a stressless lifestyle and to positive thought.

Which dog will win the fight? That’s simple. Whichever dog you feed more. 

Feed the Positive Dog.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

To Play or Not to Play on Sunday?

Recently, we at Play Like a Champion have heard of a growing debate on whether or not Catholic sports leagues should schedule activities on Sundays. We've heard from partners on both sides of the divide from the theological to the practical. Should Sundays be reserved for Church and family time? Are sports a form of spirituality, that often involve the whole family? Will canceling Sunday games help to stem the tide of decreasing youth participation in the Mass? What about young athletes who are involved with multiple teams? If Sunday games are abolished, is there enough gym space available to fit the games in throughout the week?

To learn more about the issue, we turned to two partners: Dobie Moser of the Diocese of Cleveland CYO and Brian Milone of the Valley Catholic Sports League of Southern California. Their arguments are below. We would love to know what you think. To share your thoughts, please click the comment button at the end of the blog.                                                                                                

In Support of Playing on Sunday by Dobie Moser:

When dealing with complex challenges, seek out the simplest solution, and then discard it, because you are dealing with a complex situation.  Beware of a half truth: you may get the wrong half! These adages come to mind when considering the question of whether to ban Catholic youth sports games on Sundays.

Those who oppose holding games on Sunday are concerned about losing young Catholics.  They are asking important questions, such as why are only 20 – 30% of families in parishes attending mass and why are so few young people involved in parish youth clubs?  They are also critical of the attention, time, and resources that youth sports demand as well as reports of negative fan, coach, and athlete behavior.  They hope that by getting rid of Sunday sports in Catholic settings will take us back to bygone days when Sundays revolved around Church and family.
All of these questions deserve thoughtful conversation, reflection, and response. Little good is done by hand wringing and blaming others.  Acting precipitously may well make matters worse.

Time for Different Questions
Asking different questions can open doors to considering new ways forward. Here are questions that change the conversation and invite other possible responses.
  • What is the mission of sports in a Catholic setting and how is that mission best achieved?
  • Are sports in Catholic settings formational for children, parents and coaches? If so, what needs to happen to help all involved to be more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and active members of our Catholic faith community?
  • What would most likely happen if all Sunday athletic contests happening in Catholic settings were halted?

 A Catholic Framework for Youth Sports
Saint Don Bosco, founder of the Salesisans, took the approach of going out into the streets of Turin to meet young people where they are to connect with them. Upon building relationships with them, he started oratories where children could get educated, play sports, and pursue music and the arts within an intentional Christian community. In a similar way, in the 1930s Monsignor Bernard Sheil went into the streets of Chicago to reach out to young people who were not practicing their faith and started the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) that was the birth of  youth ministry in the United States.

In both cases, these men of vision and faith understood sports as a way to reach young people and to form them as disciples of Jesus. Building on that foundation, our Catholic church believes that sports in Catholic settings today:
  • are rooted in the mission and values of the Church, and are, therefore, youth ministry;
  • train and prepare the coach as a youth ministry leader representing the faith community;
  • form the team as a small Christian Community that is part of the larger Catholic community;
  • help young people to grow as disciples of Jesus within the faith community.

This understanding and approach to youth sports in Catholic settings assigns particular roles and responsibilities to the different parties involved.        
  • Players play – they learn to play, develop skills, win, and lose while modeling Catholic values and behaviors;
  • Coaches teach – they are faith leaders and sport leaders who help the children grow;
  • Officials officiate – they are trained to provide a safe experience according to the rules;
  • Parents support – they provide encouragement and support while modeling Catholic behavior and values.
It is easy to give examples of athlete, coach, and parents misbehavior in Catholic settings. Yes, bad behavior is prevalent throughout youth sports, and is regrettably present in Catholic youth sports as well.  Yet this is why having our Catholic perspective present to offer another way is critical.

Our Catholic schools and parish youth ministry programs are becoming aware of the shortcomings of youth sports culture. We are responsible to find a better way, a faithful and Catholic way, to operate sports programs in Catholic settings. Programs such as the Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today and the Diocese of Cleveland’s  CYO  are examples of ministerial approaches needed to build a Catholic culture in youth sports.

It is understandable to want to eliminate sports in Catholic settings on Sundays as a response to difficult challenges and real frustrations about low Church attendance and disinterest in Church activities more generally. Yet parents and athletes who participate in athletics in a ministry context believe that they are engaged in faith formation through sports. A strong case can be made that Catholic youth sports is our Church’s largest youth ministry program with the most volunteers, especially male volunteers.

It is critical that our Catholic Church stays involved in youth sports. Of course, Catholic youth sport programs should not schedule games and practices on Sunday mornings.  The issue is whether youth sports should be eliminated altogether on Sundays. Such an action would cripple many Catholic sports programs already struggling to schedule practices and games with limited available facilities.  Do we really believe that if sports were eliminated on Sundays, young people would become more active in their faith? It seems more likely that they would leave Catholic youth sports programs for other non-religious youth sport programs.

We need to recapture the evangelical zeal of Saint Don Bosco and Bishop Sheil and go to where young people and their parents are.  Let’s use sports to bring our children closer to the Lord, back to the Lord’s Eucharistic table, and more fully into the Christian community.

Dobie Moser, D. Min, is the Executive Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Cleveland Diocese. He has served on the U.S. Olympic Committee and has trained thousands of coaches in Catholic settings throughout the U.S. and Canada. He is a contributing author of the 2015 book, Youth Sport and Spirituality, Catholic Perspectives from University of Notre Dame Press.

In Support of a Resting on Sunday by Brian Milone:

Outside of the occasional tournament, the Valley Catholic Sports League does not play on Saturday's or Sunday's. A few reasons for this are as follows. First of all, other athletic programs/organizations (club teams and other organizations) have consumed many of our student-athletes. These programs have either taken student-athletes completely away from our schools, or have put our families in a position that leaves our student-athletes with little time for anything else other than sports. We feel a well-rounded student-athlete is a more prepared student-athlete for the future. 

Furthermore, it is difficult to find facilities to accommodate games on the weekends. Our schools use their church and school parking lots, which many have 4-5 Masses on Sundays. This makes it difficult to have the space available for sporting events. When it comes to using other facilities, we find ourselves competing with those same organizations mentioned above for space, not to mention the cost that can be an issue for many of our schools.  

Finally, the other reason is something that has trickled down from our local Catholic High School’s, which are regulated by CIF (Southern Section). They are prohibited from participating in any school organized event on Sunday’s, and we have followed that same rule for our Catholic Elementary Schools. It is our understanding that Sunday is a time to pray, get away from the grind, and be with family in some other environment outside of competitive sports.  

 Brian Milone is the Director of the Valley Catholic Sports League in Southern California.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why High School Athletes Should Become Journalers

Today's blog was written by Bill Matthews. Bill is a family therapist and a Play Like a Champion trainer in the Detroit area.

Why High School Athletes Should Become Journalers
No, I’m not suggesting that all middle and high school athletes give up their sports to become the next Mitch Albom, John Feinstein, or Ken Rosenthal. This is about helping your athletes develop their brains in the same way you help them develop their bodies and their physical skills. Richard Kent, PhD, a professor at the University of Maine and the director emeritus of the Maine Writing Project, has done extensive research on the effectiveness of journaling as a learning tool for athletes. Kent is also the author of many books, including Writing on the Bus: Using Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Advance Learning and Performance in Sports and The Athlete’s Workbook: A Season of Sports and Reflection. He’s also creator of the website, Kent states:
“As learning tools, notebooks and journals serve as a place for athletes to analyze and reflect. They engage seniors and first-year students, all-stars and benchwarmers—in different ways. And that difference is the beauty of such a learning activity. In terms of learning, player development, and communication, writing has the potential to offer a powerful difference for teams and athletes.”
He is quick to point out that champion athletes such as Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, baseball’s Carlos Delgado, along with the Duke University Women’s Basketball Team and Gonzaga University Women’s Soccer Team all use journaling and team notebooks on a regular basis to help improve individual and team performance.

If you understand how the adolescent brain works, it’s easy to see how journaling can help young athletes’ brains grow. Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt, authors of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults write:
“The brain of an adolescent is nothing short of a paradox. It has an over-abundance of gray matter (the neurons that form the basic building blocks of the brain) and an under-supply of white matter (the connective wiring that helps information flow efficiently from one part of the brain to another) – which is why the teenage brain is almost like a brand-new Ferrari. It’s primed and pumped, but it hasn’t been road tested yet. In other words, it’s all revved up but doesn’t know where to go.”

This explains why, when you ask a typical adolescent why he/she just did what they did, you’ll most likely get the response (drum roll please), “I don’t knowwwww.” The prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties. Journaling helps develop this part of the brain the same way weight room sessions help develop the body and practices help develop physical skills. In effect, you start teaching that Ferrari brain how to stay within the speed limit and follow the road signs. Kent’s has numerous examples of pre-, post- and in-season journal activities and logs. If you want to “test drive” journaling yourself, here are 25 prompts you can try out with your athletes.
And remember- it’s the thought process and the quality of the writing, not the quantity that counts!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Participation Trophies

Today's post was written by Alison Moore. Alison is a senior Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Notre Dame. She is also a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion founder and director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan.  

I have been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers practically since birth. My dad grew up as a huge Pittsburgh fan and passed it on to our whole family, so I have been dressed in black and gold and waving Terrible Towels for as long as I can remember. My childhood was comprised of family road trips to go to Steelers training camp and attend games as a family, so despite the fact that I am away at school, where there is another important football team that consumes my life, I still do my best to follow the Steelers and my favorite players. 

Earlier this fall when a news story came out concerning one of my favorite players I was really intrigued: JamesHarrison, a linebacker for the Steelers, received considerable media attention after making a statement on Instagram about taking away his two young sons participation trophies:

"I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues"

Harrison received several comments in response to this post, both positive and negative. Some people lashed out, and said that he was an awful parent for taking away the trophies his kids worked for, and that it should not matter whether or not they were first place trophies: Harrison should have been proud of them and accepted what they got. They criticized that it was an example of parents putting too much pressure on their kids on be perfect and that their best is never really enough. While I can understand how some people could interpret it that way, I am one of those who supported and agreed with what he did. 

In his comments, he reiterates how proud he is of his kids and that he will always be there to support them, and I think it is awful that anyone would accuse a parent of not supporting their children. I believe that his actions were justified, and that too often nowadays kids are being raised to think that they are entitled to a treat or a prize for everything they do, regardless of the effort they put in and the quality of the work they do. Personally, I was raised to always try to give 110% in everything I did (that was a frequent comment that my dad would make to me) and I know that having that philosophy instilled in me has made me the person I am today. 

This situation relates directly to a lot of conversations we had in the Social Foundations of Coaching class this semester. You want to show young kids that they are valued and that they can accomplish anything when they set their minds to it, without making them think that they can just get by without putting in serious effort. Coaches and parents often put a considerable amount of pressure on kids to perform a certain way, and while it may be a fine line to walk, I think that encouraging kids to do the absolute best they can do and rewarding them only when they truly earn something will benefit the child more in the long run. The values which we hope kids will learn from sports about integrity and hard work aren't going to be as meaningful if they think they will get a trophy just for showing up. 

It is pretty bold of Harrison to go so far as to take the participation trophies away from his children, and then post about it, but it really makes one wonder if this is what it is going to take to make people realize that you aren't always going to be a winner in everything you do.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Equal Opportunity for Fun

Today's post was written by Demetrius Jackson.  Demetrius is a junior at Notre Dame and is majoring in Sociology. He is a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion Founder and Director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan. Demetrius is also a guard on the Notre Dame Basketball Team,.

During my time at Notre Dame as a student-athlete, I have had the opportunity to be a role model to a lot of young basketball players. It is important to us to represent the program standard on and off the court--not only for ourselves, but for our families, and all the young players who want to be like us someday. Every year, the program hosts a camp for the kids. Usually, we only have a little interaction with some of the campers through autograph sessions. They also watch us play pick up every night. However, since I live in South Bend, I was able to stick around when my teammates when home, so I was able to be a coach-counselor for the camp. 

My experience as a coach was very exciting, as I had a great group of young kids. The camp was open to both boys and girls, and the one young lady on my team, was also the most talented player on our team. Most, if not all, of the kids at the camp had parents or relatives that were season ticket holders. The campers were very familiar with the players on the Notre Dame Basketball team. I felt a special need to be a great coach and a good role model because a lot of them told me that they thought of me as their favorite player, which definitely increased the pressure.

One of my biggest struggles was making sure each of my players got equal opportunities. This meant equal playing time, making sure we played as a team and shared the ball, and making sure everyone had fun. Making sure that everyone had fun was the biggest challenge, but what is any job or task without a challenge? I set up an offense that required us to make sure everyone touched the ball before a shot went up in a half court setting. I tried to keep things exciting for my players by celebrating everything. Whenever an individual made a big shot or a minor defensive block, I celebrated with them like I was a player. I did my best to focus on teaching them how to play the game the right way while also having fun. In youth sports today, there is such a emphasis placed on winning that some kids get “burnt out” or lose their passion by the time they are young adults, and I didn't want that to happen with my kids. 

From our reading in the Social Foundations of Coaching class, I have learned that play gives children the encouragement and physical activity they need to develop their brains for future learning.  Through play, children discover, invent, and create. They mature in their social skills and ways of thinking, learn how to deal with emotions, improve physical abilities, and find out about themselves and their capabilities. A child’s “play’ forms a solid foundation for a life of learning.  I was able to apply this by giving the kids fun drills and keeping them actively engaged and promoting an environment where worked hard and built each other up.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sacrifices for Youth Sports

Today's post is written by Michele Phillips, a senior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Information Technology Management. Michele is a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion founder and director Professor Clark Power and program director Kristin Sheehan. Michele is also a midfielder for Notre Dame's Women's Lacrosse Team.

I recently read this article and as an student-athlete, related to it.  I think that children and parents alike can find some truth here. 

What age do we need to start specializing? At what age does a child need to stop playing multiple sports so that he can earn a scholarship for college? Can we skip the tournaments over the summer for a family vacation, wedding, or traditional sleep-away summer camp?

These questions are haunting parents right now. As the pressure to stay ahead keeps rising and the age at which children specialize in one sport keeps dropping, it is not getting any easier for parents or their children. The problem is that recruiting is not slowing down, therefore parents are not allowing their children to slow down and they are stripping the child’s childhood away. It is rare to hear of an athlete in college who has only been playing the sport for two or three years; these are rare and special cases, most have played the sport since they could walk.     

I specifically remember crying all night in 6th grade when my dad told me that I had to choose one sport or the other. At the time, I was playing both travel soccer and travel lacrosse, in addition to the town leagues. My parents would race me from one practice to the other, and I would frequently have to choose which one to attend because they overlapped, especially for tournaments away from home. While my parents were perfectly fine with me playing both sports, they felt it was unfair to the teams I was on, because I was not fully committed like some of the other girls, and they definitely got grief from the coaches about missing practices and tournaments.

In addition to club soccer, my summer camp that I attended every summer since 2nd grade began to conflict with summer lacrosse tournaments. For a while it seemed acceptable to blow them off because we were still young and there was no pressure from the college recruiters. As I entered high school, I signed a contract before signing up for my club lacrosse team stating that I would attend all practices and tournaments. This led me to miss both of my brothers' graduations from high school.          
I really cannot complain, however, as deciding to focus on playing lacrosse took me all over the world, and got me to my dream school for college. I was lucky that I was able to pick soccer back up when I entered high school. Though I’m not sure that I could have gotten away with this if I started all over today. I'm now watching my younger sister go through the same process, but with much more difficulty. She wants to play in college and attend summer camp and be able to attend our family vacations and special events. She is having a really hard time making it all happen because of the tournaments, practices and camps that have been added to the schedule over the years. 

How much are you supposed to sacrifice for a sport?
I think it really depends on the child. No child should have to miss out on family vacations or traditional summer camps during the summer because they are feeling pressured to be at tournaments for their sport. And no child should have to give up playing multiple sports too early if they truly are enjoying all of them. If the child is meant to and wants to play a specific sport in college or beyond, it will happen for them, but that does not mean they should not have a childhood like any other kid. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Key to Leadership

Today's blog post was written by Stephanie Toy. Stephanie is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in Information Technology Management and a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion Founding Director Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan. Stephanie is also a midfielder on the Notre Dame Women's Lacrosse Team.

Something I truly cherish about my time at Notre Dame was my experience in the Rosenthal Leadership Academy. This academy is something organized by Notre Dame’s Student Welfare and Development department. The program consists of two retreats and six workshops throughout the year. Athletes from all different sports at the university are nominated by coaches and peers to be part of this program. They work with each other and advisors in an effort to grow as leaders.

Each week there is a different theme for the athletes to focus on. The lessons vary from figuring out strengths and weaknesses to overcoming fear of failure. While every lesson felt important to me, one really opened my eyes to leadership. The lesson concentrated on the concept of understanding that each of your teammates is different and everyone brings an important role to the team. This idea sounds like something that is very obvious and simple, but it is something that I have found many athletes struggle with, including myself.

As competitive athletes, we tend to think that everyone thinks the same way we do. Most people believe that their way of thinking is typically right. However, this isn’t the case. When you are on a team, everyone brings something different to the table. The team would not work properly if everyone thought the same and acted the same. Nothing would ever improve because nothing would ever be challenged. In the same breath, if a team was full of people who were all business and brought no fun to the team, the team would also be unsuccessful.

As a leader, it is important to recognize this. Many times people can become frustrated with a teammate that does not seem as focused as everyone else. What is important to realize is that maybe someone else on the team relies on that teammate being loose. Instead of trying to stop and prohibit people on your team from being who they are, a true leader will encourage everyone’s different personalities. This is a lesson that has already helped me tremendously, and I am certain it will help me throughout my athletic, academic, and professional careers