SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd -

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Season Ending Letters

A tradition that we encourage coaches to do at the end of the season is to consider writing a letter to each of the players you mentored. 

The Cincinnati St Gertrude Bandit football coaches did just that, plus a little extra. They wrote a general letter to every player from all coaches and a personal handwritten note to the players they mentored.

Wouldn't you love for your son to be a on a team like this? I would.

Congratulations from all of your coaches for a fun and successful 2011 football season. The coaches learned a great deal about coaching and a lot about you, and we would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your hard work and vour eager attitude this fall.

This was the first year for the SportsLeader program at St. Gertrude, and each and every Bulldog helped to make it a success. When we started practice this summer in the heat and humidity, we did not know how well it would go. The coaches decided to put to use the same virtues in our way of coaching, and the results were outstanding. The entire parish knows about the Bandits and are very proud. We are very impressed with your participation and how much it added to the core of our team.

We would like to remind you to practice your virtues during the off-season. No, this isn't homework.. it's good advice. Charity, humility, and courage are necessary for teamwork, as we all learned this year. Practicing these virtues whenever you can is an excellent way to grow into a generous, humble, and brave man. 

It is our sincerest wish that someday, somewhere you will be on a football field with your son teaching him to be a good athlete and a great person. It has been a great beginning, so keep up the good work. You are on your way to becoming a "starter" in the game ot life.

A warm farewell to the three excellent young men who are graduating to the Ponies next season.Take your positive attitudes with you and you are sure to have a spectacular 2012 season. Everyone else, get ready for the next wave of kindergartners ...
God bless the Bulldogs!
Sincerely, Your Coaches,

Andrew Tallarigo
Robert Gruber
Marc Gerwel
John Cravaak
Joseph Worthington
Nicholas Hodge

Monday, December 12, 2011

Virtue Truly Impacting a Program

Hunter Matt, a Senior Captain of the 2011 Wyandotte Bears football team, shares which virtue theme helped him the most this year in this short video clip.

Also here is an article about him when he was selected to the Free Press All -West team.

As a side note, Hunter's older brother Andrew Matt a defensive end for the Wayne State (Michigan) Warriors, will be playing for the Division II National Championship. This is the first time in school history that the Warriors have advanced to the playoffs m much less play for the national championship.

The game will be at 11 AM this coming Saturday on ESPN2.

Virtue = Strength, Lou

By Rick Schulte
Detroit Free Press
Special Writer

Winning is nothing new for Wyandotte Roosevelt's football program, which has developed into a regular playoff and league championship contender over the years.

For senior Hunter Matt, captain of the Free Press All-West team, the Bears' success hasn't come by accident.

"We have this virtue program here at Wyandotte," Matt said. "It teaches you how to be a better person in life.

"In the off-season, I'm telling underclassmen to start working with me in the weight room and all the other things you have to prepare for. It makes us a better team, and it makes us better people."

Matt explained how Wyandotte always has had a tradition of community service, which includes a cemetery cleanup, food drive and other activities.

"We do a bunch of stuff, and it brings us all closer, like a family," he said. "We are a family."

But don't mistake that do-gooder mentality for softness. On the field, Matt plays both sides of the ball with a mean streak.

As a linebacker, he had 98 tackles this year. He also rushed for 13 touchdowns and 669 yards as a fullback.

His plans include playing linebacker at Eastern Michigan. That works well, considering he prefers playing on defense.

"Linebacker has always been my favorite position," Matt said. "You always get to be the hammer, not the nail. Although when I'm on offense, I try to bring a defensive mentality to it."

"Hunter Matt is a two-time captain who did a great job of motivating his teammates to be their best," coach Ron Adams said. "His commitment to the weight room, classroom and community inspired his teammates."

Matt plans on studying nursing at Eastern Michigan. The jump to college football might be made slightly easier just because of the way Wyandotte conducts its program.

"We run it like a college program," he said. "It's very well-organized and prepares you well for everything. So I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Perspective and Gratitude

I stumbled upon this a few days ago and I found it to be very inspiring - an excellent perspective on gratitude and life.


The mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends... 
The taxes I pay because it means that I'm employed... 
The clothes that fit a little too snug since it means I have enough to eat... 
A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home... 
All the complaining I heat about our government because it means we have freedom of speech...
The space I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking... 
My huge heating bill because it means I am warm... 
The person behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear... 
The piles of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear... 
Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive... 
The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I am alive.
We all have many things to be grateful tor.
Happy Thanksgiving!
-Fr. Mark Keene

Friday, December 2, 2011

Coach Trent Todd - Back from Life Support

Many of you are familiar with one of the coaches in our association named Trent Todd. He has been a part of SportsLeader for over 5 years now and simply put is one of the most inspiring men I have ever met. That is an understatement. The video above is a quick recap in Trent's words.

Trent has coached youth football with the Cincinnati area based Lakota Stallions for these past five years. His players and their families love this man. They know they were blessed with a coach who cared about them.

Over that period of time Trent's health deteriorated quite a bit. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which in simple terms meant that he needed a double lung transplant.

Even in that state, he created numerous videos in the hope that he could inpsire coaches to mentor their athletes. He wanted to give more. If you check out our videos section they are all there:

Last spring he pretty much was on death's doorstep. He went for a checkup and the doctors had to sit him down and basically tell him, "You can't go home. You need a pair of lungs now - right now. If they don't come soon we will have to have some very difficult conversations with your wife."

Soon after a set of lungs did come in. They prepped him for surgery and then something happened. They could not go through with the surgery ... This happened a second time ... great news, prep for surgery - heartbreak.

Things got so drastic that Trent simply could not breathe anymore, not even with multiple oxygen tanks. He had to go on life support. While on life support the doctors told his wife," Your husband has a day or two. You need to prepare yourself for some difficult decisions."

Shortly thereafter another set of lungs arrived. After having gone through this twice, there was a feeling of hope but yet reservation.

This time it worked and that was just the beginning of the minor miracles.

Trent received his lungs on May 31st. By July 13th he was headed home, oxygen-tank free. 

The normal procedure for a double lung transplant recipient is a minimum of 3 months in the hospital, followed by another month on oxygen in a setting less than 100 miles away from the clinic in case of emergency.

Trent progressed so amazingly that he went all the way home 43 days later, breathing completely on his own. He is one of the first patients in history to do this.

Maybe, just maybe, Someone wants a little more out of Trent Todd.

He is an example of a man who lives constantly striving to help others in any way he can, big or small. We will be awarding him this year's Coach of Uncommon Strength award on February 24th at Cincinnati Moeller high school at 6:30 PM. The event will be free and is open to everyone. Please bring your families. Trent will be speaking and I'm sure he will inspire you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Admirable Commitment of a Tennis Team

At Monsignor Donovan High School in Toms River NJ they make an effort to promote virtue school-wide on a weekly basis.

Each coach submits their nominees from their team as Virtue Athlete of the week according to the virtue-theme.

During Committed week, Dan Duddy- the director of the SportsLeader Virtue Program at the School, received the following:

The entire JV Tennis team demonstrated the epitome of what it means to be committed during their match on Tuesday. 

We played a team and to make a long story short, all the girls demonstrated their commitment to their team and themselves by overcoming a rude and unprofessional coach, dishonest players and disrespectful, opposing team parents.  

We lost in a tie break 5-7, but my girls walked off the court feeling accomplished and proud that they committed to getting through the match despite all the distractions. 

I would like to name the entire JV Tennis team as committed for the week. Let me know if that is okay. Thanks for all your efforts, Dan. It is a fantastic program.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Importance of Being Virtuous & Tim Tebow

Here is a note and some parental feedback from one of the Coaches in our Association, Tommy Hagey, from Nashville TN. Tommy will be one of our speakers at our Character Builds Coaches and Captains Clinic February 24-25 in Cincinnati.

Also included is a related article about Tim Tebow that two coaches emailed me (Thanks John and Jeff).
Attached is a picture of me and a painting done for me by one of our parents.  It hangs in my office.  I have also attached a letter sent to our principal and Pastor from a different parent whose son I coached.


During the recent football season at St. Henry my son L. was introduced to the Sports Leader Program.  This program is designed to teach the boys, through a coach mentoring program, the importance of being a virtuous person.  The focus were the virtues of Charity, Humility, and Courage.  L. came home after every small group mentoring session with nothing but positive things to say.  Needless to say, it had a big affect on him.  The importance of this program was emphasized even more to me by the story at the attached link below.  I'm not a Florida Gator fan or a Denver Broncos fan but I have become a big fan of Tim Tebow.  He holds true to his convictions for all the virtues that L. learned about during the Sports Leader Program; characteristics that should be admired, not ridiculed.  I'm proud to say that L. looks up to Tim Tebow as a role model, one of the few professional athletes today that deserve this honor.

All that said, I'd like to express how important and valuable, I feel, the Sports Leader Program is to our young athletes and that I think it should definitely be continued and rolled out to all St Henry athletes, both boys and girls.  I am so grateful that L. was able to participate in the program.

Thank you for including this program as part of the football season.

Best Regards, A.B.
"Reflect the Son"


Tim Tebow, an emerging American folk hero answering a cultural need
By Hampton Stevens - Special to The Washington Times

 In every era, there are athletes who transcend athletics, rising above the level of mere entertainment to express something essential about the national mood, to answer a need in the collective psyche. In the 1920s, Babe Ruth personified America’s explosive new power on the world stage. The comeuppance that Jesse Owens administered to Nazism at the Berlin Olympics cheered a nation deep in the Great Depression. Muhammad Ali encapsulated the volatile 1960s.

A beleaguered, balkanized and self-doubting America needs a different kind of signature athlete, a different kind of hero. And we might have found him.

Last week, he did the same thing to the New York Jets and in front of the New York media that he did the week before to the Kansas City Chiefs, and for years while winning a national championship and Heisman Trophy at Florida.

Last week, America got Tebowed.

Tim Tebow is unpredictable and improbable — symbolizing the triumph of will over skill. The values he embodies are an almost perfect counter to the nation’s sour and defeatist mood. He is relentlessly polite and optimistic, ferociously hardworking, and committed beyond all else to the idea of team over self. (Check out if you can his postgame interview on ESPN after leading the Broncos' wild comeback against the Jets: The rookie quarterback explains to Hall of FamerMichael Irvin — in the nicest possible way — that not all wide receivers are as selfish as he was.)

NFL purists gasp in horror at Tim Tebow’s ugly mechanics. They cringe at his toe-tied, ankle-crossing footwork, painfully slow windup and floppy release. His success despite those bad fundamentals offends the league’s elect. His clunky, raw game is the very antithesis of the sleek, high-powered, micromanaged precision beloved by the 21st-century NFL. He is the anti-Peyton Manning — an affront to the high priests of the pocket passer and their Church of the Infallible Playbook.

Unfortunately, some people detest Tebow for reasons that go far beyond football. He is an evangelical Christian who takes the “evangelical” part seriously. The home-schooled child of missionaries, he mentions Christ at every opportunity. In college, he famously wrote Bible verses on the black tape under his eyes, and the NCAA made a rule against it.

Tebow is the embodiment of everything that the cultural left hates. That’s not to say that all liberals hate him. Of course not. There must be millions of liberal Gator and Bronco fans who adore him. Team loyalty will trump politics every time. Tebow nevertheless personifies the patriarchy — straight, white, big, strong, clean cut, square-jawed, preternaturally confident, radiating exceptionalism and utterly convinced that God is on his side.

He appeared in a pro-life commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. Like Strap, the character in “Hoosiers,” Tebow will kneel and pray at any given moment, something he does so frequently and publicly that copying the motion by “Tebowing” has become a Web meme.

Some — the Bill Mahers of the world — hate the religious right so much that they’ll rag on Tebow simply because he’s Christian. Not very many, though. Most Americans, being American, couldn’t care less what the guy believes. They just bristle at him being so in-your-face about it.

The most common complaint about Tebow seems to be that he’s simply too good, too pure. He drinks milk. He claims to be saving himself for marriage. He does summer missionary work at the orphanage his parents built in the Philippines. The guy is such a goody-goody, right?

Well, duh. That’s the point. He’s Christian. You know, that whole “do unto others” and “turn the other cheek” thing. So he doesn’t go to nightclubs, get in fights, drive drunk and smoke weed. That’s a bad thing, apparently. Sure. Because the country already has far, far too many unselfish, clean-cut, relentlessly cheerful pro athletes who believe their life can serve a higher purpose. What we need are more hard-partying, self-glorifying anti-heroes. Sheesh.

But opinion, professional and popular, may have begun a kind of phase shift Thursday night, with a polarizing athletic fluke transforming before our eyes into an emerging American folk hero. Against the Jets, Tebow was atrocious for 55 minutes. (What else is new?) Then, yea, though he stood in the valley of the shadow of his own end zone, he rumbled, chucked, juked, ducked, shoveled and heaved himself during a 95-yard drive for the winning touchdown and his fourth win in five games as a starter this season for the no-longer-lowly Broncos.

Mr. Tebow is a throwback, recalling a kind of can-do American that sometimes seems like an endangered species. Tiger Woods turned out to be sleazy. Ditto Brett Favre. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds turned out to be cheaters. The country is still reeling from horrible events at Penn State and Syracuse. Over on the sports page, they will tell you that no quarterback can rush as often as Tebow does and last in the league. They will tell you he can’t pass well enough to win a Super Bowl. Maybe.

Whether Tebow-mania will last is still in doubt. What he symbolizes to the country couldn’t be more clear.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finishing Strong

As the fall sports seasons are coming to an end ... hopefully a distant end with the teams still in the championship hunt (smile) ...

Remember to do something special at your awards banquet and to get some feedback from your players and parents ... maybe the Season-Ending Essay.

1. Hand out the folders with the virtue themes and comments.
2. Write a letter to your players.
3. If you give out individual awards, consider giving an award(s) for virtue.

Coach Mike Bickerman of Rushville Industry HS in IL is planning on giving his players their virtue theme folders and a photo from Father-Son jersey night as a Christmas present.

Coach Doug Martin of East Peoris HS in IL took some artifacts from the year including their weekly sheets and wrote a letter to each kid. He had them binded by a local guy in town.

He also threw in a copy of Dr. Seuss' "Oh the places you'll go." Plus he shared, "In the end of season survey all of our kids said they enjoyed the program especially the text messages."

Here below is a letter that Coach Bob DeLong of Xenia HS in OH is giving to all of his players.

I know that to some, this may seem like "Another Thing added on" ... Remember, you might be the most influential person in a player's life!
Virtue = Strength, Lou


This will be your final letter for the 2011 season. For seniors, it is your final letter. Each week these letters have tried to prepare you for the upcoming contest. This one is no different. The contest that the seniors now face is in the game of life. I want to review the lessons we have learned so that you will be prepared when the time in the battle comes.

First, there are no short cuts to success. You will reap what you sow.

Second, no one wins until the team wins. Your team now may be your family, your comrades at work, your neighborhood, or your country. You must win as a team to make winning personally meaningful.

Third, failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. You will likely get knocked down, and as you did here, you will need to get back up and continue to fight. Unfortunately, I can guarantee you that you will experience failure. I can also guarantee you that it will not define you. Your response to the failure will define you.

There is never a right time to do the wrong thing. Expect the best from yourself and you will surely get it. Think before you act, love before you hate, and do the right thing.

We have tried to provide you with a proving ground to practice for the inevitable challenges that lie before you. Know as you go that you will always be Bucs to us. We love you. We are cheering for you and expecting your best in all that you attempt. We hope that you will keep in touch by using our website and supporting the program as we try to build it.

God speed as you go.
Sincerely, Coach DeLong 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Volley for Life

Being a part of something bigger than ourselves is a great lesson that coaches can instill in the hearts of their players. Memories and experiences like the ones here shape who we are!

Congrats to Coach Stephanie Barrows and her team. In addition to these amazing achievements, they also had a lot of success on the court as well.

Virtue Inspires!

Has your team participated in a service project this year?

The Eminence High School Warrior Girls Volleyball team recently exhibited the excellence of character their student-athletes are known for by sponsoring two fundraisers in less than one month.

On September 7, the ladies dedicated their game against Western Hills High School to the memory of player Kara Capps’ mother who passed away five years ago from ovarian cancer.

Wearing teal – the color associated with awareness of ovarian cancer – the team raised over $1,200 which was contributed to Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky, an organization Kara’s mother was closely associated with during her battle with cancer.

Three weeks later, the team members led their community again in support of their beloved high school science teacher who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Decked out in all pink, the team repeated their fundraising success, presenting their teacher with over $1,200 to assist her with medical expenses.

Additionally, the team members decided to donate their entire gate proceeds to the cause.

The Warrior Volleyball team is truly a group of ladies who exemplify the qualities of true leadership.  We are proud to celebrate the selfless achievements of our Volleyball team.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When Our Players Make Really Bad Decisions

I am blessed to be in communication with many different coaches. At times I am a sounding board, an unbiased third party, a venting stand-in ...

As many of you can attest - you have been that for me as well. That is the beauty of SportsLeader and friendship.

One of the coaches in our association, and by now a great friend of mine, Coach Jim DeJoy, had a pretty difficult situation to plow through this year. How he handled it was truly virtuous and I wanted him to share some of the experience so that if you ever encounter something similar you will know you are not alone.


I wanted to share an incident that occurred with our football team a few weeks ago.  It was the night before our second to last game of the season right after practice.  We had nine players involved, eight of which were starters, make a bad decision that cost them playing in the last two games of the season and other consequences within our school. 

At the time our team was four and two and headed toward a six and two season.  Although we were very proud of the players who were not involved they too paid a heavy price by losing the last two games and their teammates.

As a coach I was embarrassed and upset.  How can they do this after all our virtue talks this season?  We talked about courage, sacrifice, positive decision making, and staying away from negative peer pressure.  What were those kids thinking?  I almost decided to quit coaching all together.   If players weren’t going to listen to me or the other coaches then it wasn’t worth the time or effort.

Finally, through prayer and the grace of God one by one the suspended players realized their wrong and took responsibility for their actions.  One player wrote a letter of apology to the coaches, administrators, and parents.  Another player stood up in a team meeting and apologized to both his teammates and coaches.  Others, over time, made sincere apologies to the coaches.  The coach’s walls that were built started to crumble.  Maybe these players did get it and just made a bad mistake.  Hopefully this will be a learning and life lesson.  From these moments I decided I am not going to quit, or be selfish, but grow, stay the course, and continue with the Sports leader program.   Without it I am convinced that these players would have moved on without much thought of growing or striving to be men of character.

I want to thank Lou for his support and encouragement throughout this time. One thing Lou urged me to do was right a letter to each player that was involved in the incident.  Below is a copy of that letter.  

Coaches, Again thank you for all that you do.  Coaching and mentoring can have many rewards but disappointment could also take place.  I encourage you to not give up but keep teaching and mentoring our young people.

Thank You and God Bless

Jim DeJoy


I know it’s been a rough week and mistakes were made.  As humans we all make mistakes but it’s what we take from these experiences that will define our true character.  Hopefully you have grown and become a better person.  This incident is over!  Let’s move on and continue to strive to be the best we can be, both on and off the field.

Also, we want you to know the coaches are here to support and help you anyway possible.  If you need to talk our doors are always open.  It was a pleasure coaching you this season and we look forward to watching your growth in the future.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Learning from Captain America

Of course this is a comic movie ... fantasy ... there are still things we can glean from it.

In the movie Captain America, Steve Rogers, is a short, small, weak human being. 

There is a scientist who has created a serum that gives strength, speed, height, power ... enhances the physical qualities to create a stronger man.

Steve is chosen to be the man, the guinea pig to test this serum ... to create the more powerful soldier.

The night before the procedure he has a conversation with the scientist ... naturally he asks, "Why Me?"

Hitler hears of me. My work and he finds me. And he says, you will make us strong. Well I am not interested. So he sends the head of hydra, his research division. A brilliant scientist by the name of Johann Schmidt. Now Schmidt is a member of the inner circle and he is ambitious ...

So when he hears about my formula and what it can do, he cannot resist. Schmidt must become that superior man.

"Did it make him stronger?"

Yes. But there were other effects.

The serum wasn't ready but more important, THE MAN.

The serum amplifies everything that is inside, 

so good becomes great.

Bad becomes worse.

This is why you were chosen.

Because a strong man who has known power all his life may lose respect for that power,

But a weak man knows the value of strength.

And knows compassion.

"Thanks. I think."

Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing.

That you will stay who you are.

Not a perfect soldier




Let's ask ourselves: Is that truly what WE want as coaches? Do we want the perfect athlete or the good man?

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Great Way to Start the Basketball Season

This weekend I was honored to be a part of a father-son cookout to kickoff the St Gertrude boys basketball season.

It was an opportunity for Dads to meet the coaches, reminisce about the football season and just have some fun. Cornhole, basketball, burgers, smores, hot chocolate and a fire made up the menu.

After everyone was fed and settling in by the fire we had numerous men talk about great memories they have.

Coach Chris Willertz started us off talking about how he integrates SportsLeader into his public school wrestling team, how his opinion of his Dad changed as he matured and a great longing he had for a better relationship with one of his coaches in college.

Dads then shared about a host of different topics:

-The patient baseball coach who enabled a young man to have a memory he will never forget

-The man who never knew his father but had an Uncle who formed him into the man he is today and how much he appreciates him.

-The youngest of a family of 9 and how he appreciated his Dad making the special effort to play with him as he grew up.

-The memory of the non-athletic Dad who made numerous sacrifices to always be there for his athletic son.

-A man's fond memories of his high school football coach - how he is still a second Dad to him.

It was a fantastic way to show the boys that this season is about a lot more than basketball. It was a step closer to the goal of making the basketball community into a family ... 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Memory for a Lifetime

Here is a note from a good friend of mine, Gary Stegman. We are both volunteers with a boys club called Conquest which focuses on building boys into men through virtue - much like SportsLeader. I am honored to know his son personally. 

It is so awesome to see young boys embracing virtue with such strength.

Many grown men and women would not have the same perspective and virtue to react the way this 10 year old did. Maybe a good lesson in humility for all of us.

Hi Lou,

I wanted to share this story about my 10 year old son, Chris, that brought a tear of joy to my eye and made me think about how much our kids can influence us.  

(It also was a pretty cool proud Father moment)

Chris’ team made it to the finals of a soccer tournament a few weeks ago.  The game was a hard fought contest with regulation ending in a 0 – 0 tie.  

The overtime consisted of two 5 minute periods and then, if still tied, a shoot-out to determine the winner.  The first overtime period ended without either team scoring.  

Then Chris’ team scored with just a minute gone in the second period.  The kids were elated, but getting very tired.  Then, with less than 20 seconds remaining in the second overtime period, the other team scored to tie the game.  

On to the shootout…  each team missed a couple of shots and made a couple of shots.  

It came down to the last shooter for Chris’ team.  He needed to make it to tie the game.  If he missed, the other team would pull out the win.  

The player to take that final shot was my son, Chris.  

He lined up the ball and gave it a hard boot but the shot went wide left.  His team had lost.  

After a few seconds dealing with the disappointment that I felt, I searched the field for my son thinking I would need to console him after the miss.  

Lou, this is where I saw the image of my son that will stay with me for a long time.  Instead of Chris lying on the ground in disappointment or hanging his head, he was running across the field with his head held high clapping for the other team.  

He was able to quickly realize that the game was hard fought by both sides, and, instead of wallowing in his own disappointment, he was able to celebrate what was a great game between two talented teams.  

I admitted to him later that I don’t think I could have handled what happened with the same character and strength.

Before the shot, I was hoping to have a memory of my son putting that ball in the goal.  However, I realized after the game that I would have soon forgot that memory.  Instead, I have a wonderful memory of an example of the character that my son possesses.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Game Photographers See

I received this note from a parent/booster member of the Eastern High School football team in Louisville, KY - Matthew Smith.

As coaches, we don't always hear about the good things about our players and our programs from "outsiders" ... many times just the complaints.

The more you teach virtue, the more the good starts to flow.

Virtue = Strength, Lou

I had the pleasure of shooting photos for the Bryan Station/Eastern game Saturday.  I was fortunate enough to get many good shots. The shots that impressed me most won't make anyone's highlight list.

One of your players (#5) was tackled, way out of bounds, penalty flag thrown. The player was thrown into an elderly fan standing on the field on Bryan Station's sideline. What most impressed me is that player, #5 & another, #12, stopped and took the time to help him up and ask him if he was okay.

If your coaches were yelling any instructions, your kids, classy gentlemen, did not notice. They took their time, to not only help the guy up, but I heard them ask repeatedly to verify that he was okay. They took their time to listen to his answer. And not until then, did they hear or seem to care about anything else and return to the field.

Tell your coaches and parents that I am most impressed that, in addition to coaching and raising these very gifted athletes, they are coaching and raising an exceptional class of men to send out into our world upon graduation.

And if you deem appropriate, let your athletes know that, though they may rarely hear it, the truly great things they do off the field, like helping someone up and waiting until they knew they had done all they could do, is noticed and appreciated.

Well done,

Mike V.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who Am I?

In the past few weeks I have come into contact with a number of coaches who have lost pretty much all perspective on what youth sports are about. They have forgotten that kids want to PLAY sports, that kids develop little by little, that they build confidence through little gains on the PLAYing field.

It seems many coaches don't have the time or interest to develop players. As you can see by the examples below ... these two football players have developed over many, many years. Quite a few people looked past them, did not seem to think they were worth their time ...

Let's be a good example to our comrades in coaching that the purpose of sports is to build virtue, build willpower, build young men and women who will be excellent citizens who will serve others.

This young man attended High School in Houston, Texas, where he threw for 7,139 yards and 53 touchdowns in his high school career, and rushed for another 2,085 yards. He was also co-valedictorian of his graduating class in 2008. Regarded as a four-star recruit by, he was listed as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2008. 

Yet in the recruiting process he only received offers from Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Rice, Virginia and the school he chose.

He is now unanimously considered to be the #1 draft pick in NFL this coming year with many calling him the most amazing player they have ever scouted.

Who am I?
Andrew Luck


Despite his record-setting statistics in High School, he garnered little interest from Division I programs, with only an offer to compete for a scholarship as a walk-on from Illinois. He declined the invitation, and considered quitting football to study toward law school. 

He was then recruited to play football at Butte Community College in Oroville, a local junior college in California. In his freshman season he threw 28 touchdowns while leading Butte to a 10–1 record, the NorCal Conference championship, and a No. 2 national ranking. While there, he was discovered by a Division 1 coach who was actually recruiting someone else. 

The coach was very surprised to learn that this QB had not been recruited out of high school. Because he had a 3.6 grade point average and SAT score of 1300 when he left high school, he was eligible to transfer after one year of junior college instead of the typical two.

Now professionally, he is the NFL's all-time career leader in passer rating during both the regular season (101.9), and in the post-season (112.6) – among passers with at least 1,500 and 150 pass attempts respectively.

He also owns the league's lowest career pass interception percentage for quarterbacks during the regular season (1.89%).

He is considered by many to be one of the NFL's top 3 QBs.

Who am I?
Aaron Rodgers

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Things That Really Matter

Another team made the effort to see Courageous over the weekend - Wyandotte HS FB in Michigan. Thus far they have the "winning" photo.

They had a great discussion afterwards.

Here below is a note from one of the Dads from a school near Chicago.

If you can, I encourage you to make the effort to bring your team and their Dads to see this.

Virtue = Strength, Lou

Coach Cemeno,
I’m writing to thank you for coordinating the “field trip” to take the entire Providence Catholic H.S. football program and their fathers to see Courageous this past weekend. I admit, the initial thought of burning a Saturday afternoon to see a movie didn’t exactly fit into my busy schedule. However, having had the experience with my sons and seeing their reactions, I can’t think of a better way I could have spent my time.

Courageous now ranks atop my list of all time favorite films, not because the special effects or cinematography are so mind boggling, but because its content is so poignant. There was a point mid-way through the movie that I feared my 8 year old wasn’t old enough to understand the true message of the story. Then, he leaned over to me, tears streaming down his face, and said, “Dad, this is the best movie I have ever seen.” His tears were of joy and an understanding, even at such a young age, that life on earth is about far more than serving ourselves. He truly began to grasp the power of faith.

The room was filled with giant burly football players, sitting next to their buddies, but you could tell leaving the theatre that every one of them had been deeply affected. While some of them may have been hiding their red eyes, I heard many say openly, “Man, I cried… that was an amazing movie.” They were right. This is an amazing movie.

Courageous grabbed a hold of me and most everyone in that theatre. It made me realize the world is moving very fast these days and I spend far too much energy trying to stay on pace with it. However, when all is said and done, the only things that really matter are my God, my family and my contribution to helping others. This is the single most REAL movie I’ve ever seen and my hope and prayer is that families across the world will invest a couple hours to experience it themselves. While the movie is certainly not gender exclusive, it speaks so strongly to every father alive. I am a better man for having seen it and I am making it a point to recommend it to anyone that will listen.

Again, thank you for your effort to bring us together. I am forever changed because of it.

May God bless you,

Dave Stolarek

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fathers Affirming Their Daughters

Two teams had their Father-Daughter jersey nights recently and both were awesome events: Flint Powers Catholic HS cross country and Cincinnati St Bernard 7th & 8th grade volleyball.

I was honored to be able to attend the St Bernard one. After all the Dads had affirmed their daughters I said a few words and saw that there were a few roses left over so I invited the girls to come up and say something positive about their coaches. Two girls took me up on the offer and that was probably the most moving part of the evening.

Simply put - both girls made their coach feel very loved. Very well done!

Here below is a note from Coach Dave Quinn of Powers Catholic. Oh - and the day after - They won the Big Nine Championship with 23 pts, second place had 50! Their top five girls placed 2,3,4,5 and 9. 

Last night we had our first "Letters to Mom" event for both the Powers Catholic Cross Country teams.  After a short practice and team dinner, the boys and girls teams separated into different rooms at the Activity Center at St Johns, Fenton, where we held the event.

After a brief introduction,  I called the girls up, one by one, with their moms to the front of the room, where each girl either read, or spoke words of honor, love, and appreciation for their moms.  Some told stories that made us all laugh.  Others spoke of difficulties in the past and promises to do better.  Each girl came prepared and I was very impressed by the level of maturity displayed, and insight that their words conveyed.  At times, I found it difficult to announce the next name, still moved by the last speakers words.  It was truly a remarkable and blessed evening.  I am so glad Sports Leader has this event, especially for the girls.

God Bless!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being Bold

A few weeks ago Coach Dan Duddy had a special experience at the end of one of his games.

Read on.

When the final whistle was blown we had won 35-28 in a nerve-wracking shootout against a very talented football team. If the game had been 4 minutes shorter we might have lost, and if it had been just two minutes longer, a possible loss as well. Our team played valiantly to win it.

Both teams were alternating spectacular touchdowns whether it was an acrobatic catch, a “scoop and score” of a fumble, a fake punt, or a game saving dive by a defensive back to knock down a “if not for one more inch” game winning touchdown pass 60 yards down field.

We were fierce opponents. Both teams put their colors on the line. It took six days to prepare with grueling practices and hours of film. Our Virtue theme of the week was “Consistent”, provided by one of our athletes. “We need to keep the ‘Integrity’ that we resolved to last week, he said.”, and we did.

We had played the only Catholic school on our schedule. We are Catholic as well. I approached the opposing head coach during the pre-game stretch and said we would like to pray together post-game right after the traditional handshake. He thought it was a great idea.

At the end of “the war” we knelt down with the 50 yard line separating the two teams. I was sure to “walk across the line” and get my body kneeling amongst the down – trodden players from the opposition. I found myself right next to #71, a huge offensive tackle that enjoyed “having his way” with our defensive line most of the game. I said “let’s remove our helmets men”.

I then reached out my hands to grab the hand of the young strangers next to me. We pray hand-in-hand daily. There was an awkwardness from the opposing team, this compounded with the ease and habit of what we do everyday was startling to me.

I took the big guy by surprise when I grabbed his hand, and found quite a few surprises myself. I was taken back as I raised my eyes to him to find that he looked just like the rosy-cheeked cherubs that we see surrounding our Father in Heaven in DaVinci’s art work. Coupled with a “b-zillion” freckles, he smiled uncomfortably as I found his saliva-filled mouthpiece now sandwiched between our hands. I said “thanks for the mouthpiece, but you can keep it” as I wiped my hands on my pants. This turned into mutual laughter by both teams and a wonderful “Lord’s Prayer”. Among the best one’s ever said.

Stand up for who you are. If you are in a public school have your captains invite the opposing captains to do the same at the coin toss. It was a very small gesture that turned into a multitude of results that will last not just lifetime, but generations to come, but will also spread across our nation. Be bold, be strong, BE “who you are”.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Elderly: Weakness or Strength?

A number of years ago when I was studying in Rome Italy, I had a pretty amazing experience that I think speaks volumes of the power of personal sacrifice ... especially the testimony and/or witness of it by others.

I was accompanying a youth group visiting the city of Rome for a week - part tour guide, part baby-sitter, more disciplinarian than anything else (smile).

We had a group of 20 boys more or less ages 11-15. All of them were extremely polite, interested and engaged young men with the exception of one. Let's call him Alex.

Alex, apparently, did not want to be on the trip and was doing everything humanly possible to make my life and the life of the group miserable. This is actually an understatement ... but we move on.

After a few days it was time to visit the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs), more info below. All of the boys were very excited ... get to do something physical. You see the tradition is not just to look at the stairs but to go up them - on your knees. There are 28 steps and it hurts. A lot.

All of the boys rushed to do it, many competing with one another to see who could do it the fastest. Typical boys completely ignoring my pleas ... "it should be a prayerful, reflecting experience ..." Anyway. Alex was not interested and refused to even try.

After trying every motivational tactic in my limited repertoire a little old lady walked by. I would guess she was about 85, hunched over, very wrinkly and very beautiful ... she reminded me a lot of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

I said, "Alex if that little ..." before I could finish the phrase he was walking over to the steps. For some reason I instantly knew something special was about to happen.

The lady was on the left side of the steps, Alex on the right and I was in the center. We were one or two steps behind her. (See photo)

About half way up I kind of peek over at Alex and I notice that he was crying and constantly looking over at the lady. He refused to go any faster, even though he could. He would only move after she moved. The rest of the boys had finished by now and they were at the bottom again watching us in amazement that Alex was doing this. They could see that "something" was happening.

Understandably she was struggling mightily to continue ... so was I for that matter. 

At the top of the steps, he grabs me and says, "Translate for me. Tell this woman that she changed my life." And then he gave her the biggest hug that I have ever seen. He held on to her for what seemed like 5 minutes - a total stranger.

He finally lets go and walks away.

I speak with the woman. She is crying uncontrollably. She tells me, "My husband died 30 years ago and I am so lonely. I loved him so much and he would always give me the biggest hugs. I miss those so much. I came here today begging God to send me a sign that He loves me, that my husband is still there, that he loves me. And then this boy comes and gives me the most wonderful hug in the past 30 years. You tell that boy that - he changed my life."

This might seem impossible - I was speechless.

And Alex? He was transformed that day. She really did change his life. Her sacrifice, her willingness to tackle those 28 steps at her age was the most impressive and valuable thing he had ever witnessed in his life. 

When I was saying good bye at the airport, after a week of seeing some of the most amazing historical sights our planet has to offer, the only thing he spoke about was - "The little old lady."

Why did I write this today?

Our motto is Virtue = Strength. Our elderly are often forgotten and under-appreciated. Looked on as weak. They are not. So often they are much stronger, much more virtuous than we are and they deserve our love, respect and honor. 

Some young men and women, some athletes do not see this due to the hyper-attention that we put on our bodies within athletics.

Let's make an effort to bring the elderly into the lives of our players - to help them see the tremendous strength and wisdom they carry.


The Scala Sancta (English: Holy Stairs, Italian: Scala Santa) are, according to the Christian tradition, the steps that led up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which Jesus Christ stood on during his Passion on his way to trial.

The stairs were, reputedly, brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th Century. For centuries, the Scala Santa has attracted Christian pilgrims who wished to honor the Passion of Jesus.

It consists of twenty-eight white marble steps, now encased by wooden steps, located in a building which incorporates part of the old Lateran Palace, located opposite the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ohio State Wrestling - Building Life Champions

Tom Ryan, Head Wrestling Coach at Ohio State, is integrating virtue into his program and doing a great job. Below is a portion of his newsletter.

We need more college coaches to step up and lead in the same way. The need is urgent.

Coach Ryan’s Corner
Pre-Season Is Underway!
We are now two full weeks into our pre-season prac- tice and we sure are happy that our No. 1 recruiting class attended summer school and trained for 90 days in June, July and August. The freshmen, and there are a lot of them, all came in prepared for the challenges of a Big Ten wrestling program. 

As is expected, the rigor of the daily life can be very challenging. My favorite quote is posted on the wall of The OSU wrestling room, “There are 2 pains in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.” Either way, life is going to be tough and demanding. The men in this program who not only make it, but fight to standout are the ones who will lead us. The focus of pre-season to this point has been on weight control (getting athletes down to their ideal training weight), a strong base of conditioning, our culture and general skill needs. I am not sure there is any time of the year other than the NCAA’s that is more fun than when the team returns in the Fall.

As we continue to train hard we are preparing to move into daily wrestling practices. Currently, under NCAA guidelines we are only allowed to work with the student-athletes eight hours per week of which two of them can be skill related. We will began our formal training Monday, Oct. 10th, so now we are up to 20 hours per week. In addition to the athletic side of our practice, all of our freshmen and other student-athletes with below a 3.0 GPA must turn in a weekly class attendance sheet, as well as attend eight hours of study hall. The coaches are not only in the wrestling room, but on campus doing random class checks. The culture and standard is simple. It’s about excellence on and off the mat.

The last piece of the puzzle is the building of future leaders. Our motto is “Building Life Champions.” Each week we study a new word before our Tuesday practice. To date our team members talked about the following words: Grateful, Boldness and Toughness. We heard from Logan Stieber who mentioned how Grateful he is for all those who have assisted him in all aspects of his develop- ment. Cody Magrum shared with us about the Boldness required to have the strength to not follow the crowd down the wrong path. Cody is a two-time NCAA qualifier and has earned Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors for his 3.8 GPA, as well as Academic All-America honors. He is one of our three team captains along with Nick Heflin and freshman Logan Stieber. 

Every week we text the word of the week to the team and then discuss what it means to them and a scenario that would define it in their lives. College life has so many doors that can be opened, but also so many challenges for young men. Freedom is a blessing and these men, although sad to leave home (LOL), they also must manage their free time and many choices that are made each day.

To close, we are all very pleased with the progress of this team. Although most of our squad of 31 student-athletes from around the country do not quite shave yet, we are all fired up about their passion to succeed and pride they bring to Buckeye Nation. We hope to see you at our Varsity wrestle-offs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20th in the French Field House. The wrestle-offs are free to the general public.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two Players Address Their Teams

Here are a few great stories from Nazareth Academy near Chicago IL. Consistent mentoring over a three year period is definitely making a difference.

If you'd like to watch a short video testimony from a former Nazareth player, Mike Williams, click on the link

Hi Lou,
I wanted to write a follow up story to Coach Racki's comments below.

While mentoring today one of our freshman players today at practice, I was able to use the example below to strike a cord with this young man.

During our friday night game, this player had a very difficult time with not being giving the opportunity to punch in one our touchdowns. He is a very talented athlete who happens to be the youngest on the team. Because of his selfish behavior, he was pulled out of the game. Yesterday he was told by the head coach that he would be held accountable by sitting out the first quarter of our upcoming game and he again proceeded in a childish fashion by threatening to quit the team. As you can imagine he was a distraction for the rest of that practice.

Today was different though when we sat down to mentor. He felt better and was receptive to discuss the events of the past several days. He was remorseful about telling me to get lost at the game when I tried to comfort him. I told him that I prayed he could come to terms with the punishment he was given. He relayed his feelings of being out of control and guilt about comments made about his teammate  who actually got to score the TD. I went on to relay the story told below of how this varsity player was humble enough to apologize to his team.

Before we prayed at the end of today's practice, he asked to step up and address the team. He started by saying he didn't know what got into him, never having done anything like this in the past. He turned toward the player he defamed and told him that he deserved the TD and ended by apologizing to the team.

After 3 years of sportsleader at Nazareth, one can see the rewards of our efforts. We are developing virtuous leaders on the varsity who are becoming role models for the younger players.

Have a great day,

Hi Lou,

Thanks! It has been fun. Winning can be fun if you do it the right way and I would like to believe that's what we are doing.

One of the really neat mentoring things that has caught my attention this year has been the accountability issue. Just this past Saturday one of our
players was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, amid the celebration, and right before I was going to let them go to the locker room,
the player stopped me and asked if he could address the team. He sincerely, apologized for his actions said he let them down and that it would not
happen again. A little thing, but something this kid would not have done if not for what we preach. 

This has happened quite a bit without my prompting with players who are late to practice, got detentions in school ect... Seeing them take the initiative to accept responsibility has been a great memory of this team up to this point. 

Also...just yesterday our Principal (Deborah Vondrasek) commented on our players conduct at the homecoming dance....spirited, respectful, polite, very impressive for a team that could have very easily let all of this success go to their heads. 

I told them at this morning's meeting I was more proud of those comments than what any scoreboard may read.

Take care Lou.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Virtue, Pancakes and Championships

I was able to attend a football game with a SportsLeader team this past Friday in Wyandotte Michigan. They were playing for the league championship and it was a really awesome experience. There are so many positive things I could say but what probably stood out the most is that the whole coaching staff and their Senior leaders have really, really bought in. 

The virtue theme of the week is blended into everything they do. It is on white boards right next to scheme and plays, it is in their vocab when they break em' down ... and all of this in their first year.

I spoke with over twenty players and they all mentioned how they loved their mentor coach, how they appreciated the time on virtue and the motivation.

After a victory the offensive line coaches take the big men out to a pancake restaurant. While we there one of the coaches, Ben Reynolds, told me a story about how a bunch of his linemen helped move his Grandmother's things on the Saturday of the homecoming dance ... that the players were tired from the game the night before, had lots going on to get ready for the evening ... but they gladly showed up to help. 

What was more impacting was that Coach Reynolds' Grandma was naturally a little sad about moving but the players really lifted her spirits, made her feel a part of the team and showed her a lot of love and respect.

One of the other o-line coaches, Coach Bill Sweet, gave an amazing pre-game speech to the lineman about the virtue theme of the week: Bold.

Many people have told me that virtue is for teams that can't win ... that coaches who dedicate time to that stuff don't do a good enough job coaching the x's and o's.

Well, simply put Coach Ron Adams, along with his whole staff, is proof that they are totally and categorically WRONG.

Virtue helps you win championships - on the field and off.

Congrats to the Bears! Keep up the great work and don't stop.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tips for Teenage Boys on Respecting Girls

I received this email from a friend of mine and I thought it had a lot of insightful points.

You may want to consider forwarding this to your players, the parents of your players and having a talk with your team or in your mentor groups about these points.

With the hope of offering some helpful tips to young men on respecting girls, we interviewed several moms and dads, teenage and college age boys and girls who we consider to be wise and prudent in this matter.

Tips for Teenage Boys on Respecting Girls
These tips are useful both in and out of dating relationships both in high school and college. We do not recommend having serious dating relationships in high school. In general it is better to stick to larger groups and any relationship should be paced, chaste, respectful, non-exclusive, and public.

1.       Be sincere (don’t try to be somebody you are not…girls see right through this.  You are much better off just being yourself)

2.       Don’t brag, talk too much about yourself, or speak poorly of others

3.       ­Be kind to EVERYONE.  (A girl judges whether you’re a good guy not just by how you treat your buddies or herself, but ALL people: the janitors at school, waiters, kids you’re not necessarily friends with, etc.)

4.       Be respectful of the rules imposed by a girl’s parents.  Every family has different guidelines with respect to movies they’re allowed to watch, parties they’re allowed to attend, curfews, etc.  Don’t criticize, make fun of or even worse encourage her to break them, no matter how much you want to spend time with her.

5.       When you go up to talk to a girl, make a point to say hello and talk to her friends as well

6.       Don’t expect a girl to hang out with you and ten of your buddies.  This can be very uncomfortable for a girl.  Ask her to bring a few of her girlfriends along as well or don’t insist that she come over to watch a football game if it will be all guys.

7.       Be very selective in the movies you take girls to see. Inappropriate content makes a girl feel very uncomfortable and it is simply not considerate to put her in that position.

8.       Be a good listener. Ask questions and allow the girl to talk (don’t dominate the conversation). When a girl has a problem, she needs to talk about it.  She is looking for empathy (NOT sympathy) and not necessarily a solution. If she asks for advice give it to her (and give it some thought).

9.       Give special attention to etiquette and chivalry:
a.       Stand up when she stands up from the table, and stand up when she returns to help her with her chair
b.       Hold doors for the girl, especially car doors
c.       Give the girl the seat of preference and offer her a seat if there are none readily available
d.       Walk a girl to her car if she is driving alone
e.       Check on the girl to make sure she gets home safely
f.        Come to the door when picking a girl up and meet the parents and come to the door when you drop her off as well
g.       Stay out of other girls’ bedrooms and don’t bring them into yours
h.       Keep eye contact (if you can’t look her in the eye, look away, not anywhere else)
i.        Walk on the outside of the sidewalk (the guy is the protector)
j.        Don’t cut off conversation for a social text or call
k.       A guy should be the one initiating contact (phone calls, etc.)
l.        Give preference to calling over texting and always take care of important business face-to-face
m.     Respect girls online and via text the same way you would face-to-face

10.   Most importantly, treat a girl with RESPECT. She is not an object, but one of God’s beautiful creatures.  Dating and friendship are for getting to know the person rather than for physical intimacy. Girls are created in God’s image the same as guys. If you always try to see a girl the way God does, you won’t ever have a problem treating her with respect.

God bless,
Fr. Michael