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 -

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Identity and Mission

I had a great experience the past two days. I was able to speak at a National Catholic Educational Association regional meeting for high schools.

Region 9 is comprised of Catholic High Schools from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. It was hosted at Dowling Catholic High School.

Now SportsLeader is very proud to work with all schools whether they be public or private ... but if you're going to be a Catholic school - well go all out. And Dowling Catholic is a school like that. I was impressed to say the very least. The photo of their weight room is a just a taste of the Catholic Identity that envelops the school.

You can really "taste" that everyone and everything about the school has a very specific Identity and Mission about it. This is really how it should be. This is formational for our students. I learned so much from simply walking the halls and listening to a student ambassador explain all these elements with such professionalism.

There were School administrators, athletic directors, development directors and campus ministers from about 23 different high schools and 1 gentleman from Creighton University.

Hopefully a number of these schools will be joining the SportsLeader family soon.

As the President of Dowling Catholic, Dr Jerry Deegan, was bringing me back to the airport he told me a little story that I found inspiring.

A student-athlete was giving a tour of the school one day to some visitors. One of the attendees asked, "Why is that crucifix here in the weight room?"

The student replied, "I love that it is here. When I'm tired of working out, I simply look at Him. If He could be on that cross for me and sacrifice ... then I can sacrifice and finish my workout. That is Sacrifice."


Reminder about The Courageous Movie night for your Dads ... the movie opens tomorrow.

There are numerous SportsLeader teams gathering to do this. Please remember to get a group photo.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Letter to Mom Ceremony

A tradition that we encourage SportsLeader teams to put into place is called "Letter to Mom"

It is a very powerful event that has changed many lives.

The basic gist is that you have all your players write a letter to their Moms. Maybe you do this before or after a practice.

Then you invite all the Moms to come to X place at X time.

Once there the players read their letters to their Moms in front of everyone present. Yes, this might be difficult for some - that is precisely the point and the reason behind doing it.

For many of us, as we grew up, our communication with our Moms consisted in 4 basic topics:
A ride

Outside of those, we quite possibly did not speak to the poor woman.

Well - as the players write their letters, you tell them that they need to write at least these 3 things:

1. Mom, I love you.

2. Thank you for ...

3. I appreciate you. Describe the virtues and qualities of your Mom.

One coach, Mike Stine of Naperville Central High School in Illinois makes a great banquet out of it ... others it is simple ceremony after a practice.

One team this year had a special experience. This coach had a player who, at the time, was very arrogant, obnoxious and disrespectful. Well he had a bit of a conversion as he wrote his letter. He handed his coach a 3 page letter that was "beyond amazing".

He told the young man - "You are reading yours first."

At the ceremony, he reads his letter with a lot of emotion. Stunned is an understatement. His Mom gave him a hug that lasted for what seemed an hour. It was impossible not to be moved by this. Every teenage macho facade disappeared. 

It only got better.

The next player who was assigned to go ... was the standout QB who everyone thought was going to go first - nice, respectful, good kid.

He stands up, coughs a few times and says:

"Mom, I'm not going to read the letter I wrote. It is here and you can have it but I can't read it. I've been a selfish (expletive) my whole life. What I wrote in this letter isn't real. I wrote it because Coach made us write it. But it's not real. But after J read that to his Mom ... I can't ... you deserve better. So if you all don't mind I'm just going to talk. Let me tell you about my Mom. She is the most selfless person I know ... "

He praised his Mom for 5 minutes.

Most of the players that followed the QB did the exact same thing.

One of the main objectives is to offer your players the opportunity to SEE how much this means to their Mom. Too often we take our Mom for granted. This little ceremony hopefully will help erase that.

If the Moms of your coaches are still with us and living nearby ... have the coaches invite their Moms as well and they can speak too ... If someone has already lost their Mom ... have them write it anyway. It might bring some healing.

Get some roses and have the players give one to their Mom as well.

I hope you do this with your team.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mentoring Amidst Our Mistakes

Paul Barna, an assistant football coach at Monsignor Donovan High School in Toms River NJ, had a blow up with a player during a game. His head coach, Dan Duddy, asked him to apologize ... which he did with a lot of humility and then also asked him he would mind writing about the experience in the hope that it might help other coaches.

Thanks, Paul, your humility and effort is awesome.

According to my wife, I am the poster-boy for the definition of a Virgo. On the positive side, I am modest, shy, meticulous, diligent, intelligent, and analytical. On the negative side, however, I am overcritical, harsh, and a perfectionist. For the past 5 years I have used the negative side of my personality to coach both the varsity and junior varsity players. 

It was the coaching style that I grew up with from age 7 playing Pop Warner through my toughest years in college. I felt that it made me a stronger person mentally both on the field and off of it as well. The “toughness” my coaches modeled for me has helped me develop what some people call “cold blood”. It is not that I am “cold”. It is that when presented with a tough situation, I have the ability to shut the other person out; if only for a time.

In today’s society, our young men are faced with many more challenges then we were as teenagers. Because of that, they are more high-strung and emotional. We, as educators, have to take that into consideration when we correct or discipline these students. During the offseason, after reading Tony Dungy’s book “The Mentor Leader”, I made a heartfelt decision to start coaching with the positive side of my personality and learn to control the negative side. 

As Coach Dungy says in his book, “mentor leaders seek to have a direct, intentional, and positive impact on those they lead. At its core, mentoring is about building character into the lives of others, modeling and teaching attitudes and behaviors, and creating a constructive legacy to be passed along to future generations of leaders” (Whitaker, 2010). 

I knew it would be an uphill battle because it is hard to change something that has been ingrained in you since a little boy. There would definitely be “slip-ups” but it would be how I reacted to those that would determine my growth at season’s end.

In the past, during the mentoring sessions with our players, the coaches were told to help our players develop a resolution based on the “virtue word of the week”. These resolutions had to be measurable and precise. This year, we were asked as coaches to make a measurable resolution to our players as a way to model what we were looking for. I made a resolution during “bold” week to be more patient and positive on the sideline during games. 

“Mentor leadership works best when the ones being mentored are aware that the mentor leader has a genuine concern for their development and success. Those we lead will be more receptive if they believe we genuinely want them to succeed” (Whitaker, 2010). 

A player does not feel that you want them to succeed if you are yelling at them in front of their family and friends. He will shut you down faster than it took to trust you. I told the players in my group that if I slipped up, they could call me out as quickly as I will if they slip up with their resolution.

This past Friday night, during a frustrating 1st half, I had a blow up on the sideline with a player. The situation that happened on the field is irrelevant. I felt insulted by a player, but what I failed to remember is that I am working with young men that are still growing both mentally and physically. An adult should never feel insulted by a teenager because a majority of the time the child does not know they are insulting you. 

The fact of the matter is that I did not act on my resolution, which I knew was going to happen at some point during the season. When we got into the locker room at halftime, I asked a player in my mentoring group to tell the other players what my resolution for the week was. After the team heard my resolution, I let them know as a team that I screwed up. Following that I apologized to the player that I called out for losing my cool with him on the sideline in front of his family and friends.

By doing this, I hope I showed all of the players that just because I missed on my resolution once does not mean that I have to throw it out the window. It means that as long as I want to continue to pull from my positive traits, I have to work harder on pushing the negative traits out of my life. From this revelation at halftime, I feel that my relationship with the players, especially the one I called out, has grown even stronger. 

Nobody is perfect but not everybody can admit to their mistakes. It takes a man to admit he was wrong. By speaking to the team, I was able to model to them what a real man does when presented with a situation like I put myself in. 

As written in Tony Dungy’s book, “mentor leadership is all about shaping, nurturing, empowering, and growing. It’s all about relationships, integrity, and perpetual learning. Success is measured in changed lives, strong character, and eternal values rather than in material gain, temporal achievement, or status” (Whitaker, 2010). 

I can only hope that these players are able to learn not only from my experience in football but from the failures I have made and grown from in my life.

Works Cited
Whitaker, T. D. (2010). The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Giving Back

A part of the SportsLeader methodology is the Circle of Virtue.

Know - Know the virtue personally
Value - Make it yours, internalize it
Live - Live it because YOU want to, not because Coach makes you
Transmit - Share it with others

A beautiful example of this is Maria Frohlich. She is a 17 year old HS Senior who is a 7th-8th grade cheerleading coach at Cincinnati St Gertrude.

She is taking what she has learned from her parents, teachers, and coaches and now choosing to give and share with others.

Here is a video of Maria sharing her testimony.

May we all strive to build up young men and women of virtue, like Maria. Our world will be a better place because of it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Million Drops of Water

This comes from a Coach with 28 years experience.

Many times in life we don't experience the "big, earth shattering" events. It is just the ordinary, the routine, the nothing spectacular.

In the midst of my ordinary routine I received some great news a few days ago. Great news that I would say is the result of "the million drops of water."

I have a player on my team named Brandon. No one in his family has ever graduated from High School. No one! Ever!

Well Brandon is well on his way to graduating and he just got accepted to Union College in southern KY.

He received his letter of acceptance in the mail and immediately called me. The excitement in his voice and the celebration in the background was priceless.

As I reflected on my relationship with Brandon, there really isn't anything that stands out as "the turning point" or the big aha moment. Just the constant practice ... the virtue talks, the mentoring sessions, the getting back up after falling ...

It all adds up over time. And when it adds up it can be pretty special.

I know the temptation to question, "Is this really worth it? Is it working?" always comes up.

Remember Brandon ... remember the million drops of water.


Steve Frommeyer
Principal and Head Football Coach Eminence High School
Eminence, KY

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Purpose of Sports - Build Virtue

At times the competition of sports can bring out the worst in us: jealousy, revenge, hatred, arrogance, fear. At times these weaknesses of ours then rub off on our players.

But sports can also bring out the best in us: heroic willpower, generosity, humility, perseverance ... at its core, this is the true purpose of sports, to build virtue.

Here is a testimony of exactly that. A moment of competitive athletics that brought out the best in everyone present. The photo speaks for itself. I'm sure everyone there that day will remember this forever.

Our game this past Sunday was a very intense one as far as grade school football games go.  The game itself matched two undefeated teams who have always competed very well against each other over the last few years, with our St. Gertrude Bulldogs often getting the better of the outcomes.  We have a great deal of respect for the Summit Reserve players and coaches and knew going in that the game would be physically challenging.  We had no idea just how challenging it would be.

Until mid-way through the 4th quarter, the game was the most physically, tactically, and mentally challenging game in which I have ever coached.  The teams were evenly matched and both had driven inside their opponent's 3 yard line without scoring during the game.  That all changed in an instant when one of our boys made an open field tackle on a wingback reverse to Summit's #32 - one of their top players.  In the midst of the tackle, #32landed awkwardly on his shoulder and neck and immediately cried out in pain.  While he was moving his arms and legs, he was clearly injured.  Immediately, all of our boys dropped to a knee as they've been coached to do.  The injured player was attended to by a doctor who was an assistant for Summit, a trainer that is at all of our home games, two dads from our program who are trained EMTs and a mother who is a nurse.  I ran and grabbed a back board as another member of our program called 911 for the EMTs to come per the orders of Summit's assistant coach and doctor.  Needless to say, many players, coaches, parents, and spectators fell silent and began praying for the best outcome for the Summit player.

Then one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in any setting, much less on a football field, took place.  The head coaches from both teams gathered the competing teams at mid-field and we all joined hands, alternating Summit and St. Gertrude, in a prayer circle that spanned 20 yards of the field.  A coach from Summit took the lead for the group, explaining that even though we were in heated competition, we were all brothers in the game of football and all children of God.  He continued that it was our brother laying there and that he needed our prayers for safety and healing.  We all prayer together, some crying, some fighting back tears, just hoping for a sign that #32 would be okay.  We got it as he gave us all a thumbs up as the response team carried him to meet the ambulance.

After a few minutes of warm up and some discussion about finishing the game, the contest resumed.  After 32 minutes of hard fought football by two great teams, the score remained 0 - 0.  Summit won the coin toss and chose to go on offense first.  Our Bulldogs held Summit out of the endzone on 4 plays from the 10 and then proceeded to punch it in on 4th down and inches for the overtime win 6 - 0.  But, the example of character, perseverance, courage, and charity that was shown by all the players on both teams was so incredibly humbling for all of us there - especially the coaches involved to see these young men show such love and compassion in the face of such adversity.  We have no doubt we will see the Summit Knights again before this 2011 season is over and we hope #32 is competing with them again when we do.  Different color uniforms or not, they are still our brothers in football and in Christ.

Brian Redden
St. Gertrude Football
Reserve Assistant Coach

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Season of Adversity

As most of you know, SportsLeader is about a lot more than the scoreboard. Striving to win is very important, achieving excellence is always the goal and objective but at the same time we want our coaches, athletes, parents and family members to WIN in life.

This is not always easy and the path to these lessons is uphill to say the least.

There is one team which is a part of the SportsLeader family, the head coach requested anonymity, which has suffered enough adversity to last a few decades ... all in the first month of the season.

Week 1: A player's Mom died in a gruesome motorcycle accident. 

Week 2: Another player's Mom died in a car accident due to a drunk driver

Week 3: A former student, player and teammate committed suicide. No note was left but he took his life when all of his buddies were leaving for college. He did not get accepted to any of his college choices.

Week 4: The wife of an assistant coach went to the hospital to get checked for a pain in her back. They found a tumor attached to one of her vertebra and it turned out to be cancer. They hospitalized her that night and are starting radiation treatments today. She has to go in once a day  for 25 treatments. 


"We would love to have our SportsLeader families say a prayer in her name. I know the power of pray and the power in numbers. Her name is Carrie."

The head coach has been extremely strong through all of this. He related some good stories to me, amidst tears, of how at the funerals the players have done an amazing job showing compassion, empathy and kindness to all of the family members. Something to truly be proud of.

One of the pastors presiding at one of the funerals said, "That was the most amazing display of love I have ever witnessed in all my years of doing this. Thank you."

All of this puts things in perspective very quickly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Victory Day - Special Needs Children, Football, Cheer and Virtue

Aaron Segedi, a SportsLeader coach from Trenton High School in Michigan, has started a tradition that I think every school should emulate. Hosting a day for special needs children to come together and play football or cheer surrounded by family and friends.

But he went a step further and invited 3 other schools from within their conference to come and live the experience as well. Teams they line up against every year and compete: Wyandotte, Woodhaven and Carlson.

This was all blended in to their virtue theme of the week: Selflessness.

Here below are 2 articles by Byron Trimble of the Trenton Patch. One is pre-event and the other post.

Maybe you can have a Victory Day next year with teams from your conference. Maybe in 5 years there will be 50 victory days happening ...

Virtue = Strength, Lou

Trenton Football Players Team Up With Special Needs Children For One Game
The second annual community football game, or Victory Day, for special needs children from the downriver area will be at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday at Trenton High School.

On Sept. 17, the Trenton varsity football team will host the second annual Victory Day for children from Josephine Brighton Work Skills Center, the Madison/Downriver Regional Trainable Center or the Lincoln Center--Downriver schools for students who are physically or cognitively impaired or autistic--at Trenton High School's football stadium.

In this game, 40 young boys and girls get to take the field at the football stadium -- P.A. announcer, referees, and cheerleaders to boot -- and will be paired with one of the Trojan players or cheerleaders, what for many of them, might be the only football game of their lives.

That's not all. Each child will get a jersey, a medal, an introduction to the crowd, and an opportunity to catch or run for a touchdown. TheTrenton Marching Band will play the national anthem as well as form a tunnel in the end zone for player introductions.

Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, Mayor Gerald Brown and city and school officials will be in attendance, with Coach Carr addressing the group before game time.

"It's absolutely one of the coolest events I've ever been a part of," Trenton varsity football assistant coach and event organizer Aaron Segedi said. "The looks on their faces are priceless. Absolutely priceless."

After the game, the Trenton Touchdown Club will serve hot dogs and juice for the families and Carroll’s Photography will also be available to take pictures of the event for each child.

The event will go from 10:30 a.m. till noon.

"There was a dad who was so excited walking up to me," Segedi said when asked about a highlight from last year. "He said to me, 'For the first time ever, I got to be ancy the night before my son's football game. Thank you so much!' That just shows it's not just about the kids, but the parents too."

"Victory Day" Was A Win For Everyone

The kids in the jerseys and scoring touchdowns were not the only ones who walked away from Saturday with smiles on their faces.

"We made a lot of days today," beamed Aaron Segedi, Trenton varsity football assistant coach and "Victory Day" coordinator. If you know Segedi at all, this is far from a boastful statement. He's talking about the volunteers as much as he is the participants.

"Everybody here walks away with a smile on their face," Trojan head coach Bob Czarnecki said.

The most noticeable smiles on Saturday were the ones lighting up the faces of the children.

"The smiles on their faces are the highlight for me," said senior Trenton football player Jeff Jones who was buddies with Tra Gaston for the day. "Big Tra" had one of the more memorable touchdown runs of the day by opting to run at the defenders instead of away from them and pushing them over with a tidal wave of stiff arms.

"I've wanted to score a touchdown my whole life," Tra said.

Trenton sophomore Chase Abraham got to be a mentor for the first time this year and was paired with Adrian Tyler. Adrian's favorite part of the day seemed to be letting Abraham hold a blocking pad up and then running into at fullspeed.

"Seeing them have fun is what I like best about it," said Abraham. "Just knowing that they probably don't get to have fun like this that often. It's cool."

Junior cheerleader Kaitlin Tracy was paired with Brooke McNally at last year's "Victory Day" and developed a unique relationship when Brooke's parents brought her to see Tracy cheer at a lot of the home games. The two were paired again this year.

"It's incredible to get help them experience something like this," Tracy said while she stood next to her young friend who was practicing her touchdown dance for when she got her chance to score. "It's neat to be involved with one kid like I have, too. It was so sweet. Last year she cried when she had to leave me."

Segedi said that this event is all apart of the football program's leadership training as it tries to use a game to make quality young men. This week's theme, appropriate with Saturday's event, was selflessness.

But the Trojans were not the only players Downriver to learn that trait Saturday. Segedi invited coaches from Carlson, Woodhaven, and Wyandotte High Schools to bring some of their players to help out.

One of those players were Carlson star Kyle Ready.

"I noticed the joy they got from a lot of the little things," Ready said referring to things like tackling dummies and standing on the sideline for the national anthem. "I'm definitely going to learn to cherish the moments more."

Segedi said he spent last year running around making sure everything was in order too much and made sure that this year he sat back and simply soaked in the moments. One of those moments was when an autistic eight-year-old boy's mother, with tears in her eyes, approached him. She said her son, Robbie, absolutely loves football and spends most of his days playing football in the yard by himself for hours. Saturday, he played football on field, in a jersey, with fans, with tacklers.

"She told me her son said that this was the best day of his life and thank you," Segedi said with a smile.

Everyone had a smile on their face which is why one of the ugly truths of football did not exist Saturday. It's true in any type of competition--someone always wins, someone always loses.

No one lost in this game. Not on Saturday. Not at "Victory Day".

Monday, September 19, 2011

Does Turning Purple Help You Win?

I don't mean to pick on Coach Brian Kelly. I'm sure he is working on this challenge just like many of us have to.

The challenge: Controlling ourselves in the face of adversity.

If you saw any of the Notre Dame-South Florida game a few weeks ago, you may have been just as frustrated. The photo comes after the Irish committed approximately their 75th turnover in the red zone. It was a difficult moment to say the least whether you were routing for ND or not.

But, we CAN objectively state that turning purple did not help Notre Dame win. They went on to lose this game 23-20.

Now, can we say turning purple helps you lose? Maybe.

If you have chewed your players out to such a degree, as the game progresses their mental state might be:

9 gallons of worrying about making a mistake and causing my coach to threaten my life's existence
1 teaspoon of focusing on making a play by doing my job to help the team

A good recipe this does not make.

In the movie Gridiron Gang, the head football coach loses it in similar fashion, cussing out a player who draws a 15 yard penalty ... As he is screaming at him he says, "You have to have discipline and self control." The player looks back at him and says, "Tell me about it, Coach."

At this point in the movie, the coach begins to make a change in his life. Let's do the same.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Growth Through SportsLeader

Mentoring is a huge part of our virtues program. It takes some getting used to in order to blend it into your practice schedule but once you do the fruits are pretty powerful. Here is an example of exactly that.
I wanted to tell you about a conversation I had with my starting quarterback during our one on one time and give you a progress report on our SportsLeader Program. 

This is my first year as head coach of the 7/8 grade football team at St. Gertrude. It was my understanding that last year the players were a little rambunctious in school. My starting quarterback was not one of the rowdy ones, but he admittedly enjoyed laughing at the antics. Through our virtue talks of Charity, Humility and Courage, he has stepped up as a leader to stop the silliness in school by his teammates. 

During one of our sessions he told me it was bothering him how some of the players were acting in school. I asked him what he thinks a complete man would do. He said to me he would take action and courageously call the teammates out and remind them what was expected of them as football players. So we decided through our conflict resolution that he would have a team meeting after practice, away from the coaches and call those players out and ask the team to help him to encourage his teammates to do the right thing. 

I checked in with him the next couple of weeks and he reported those kids are acting better and he felt good about having a role in that. 

I've had conversations with one of the 6/7/8 grade teachers and he has reported to me that he has seen an improvement in the football players this year over years past. This teacher knowing we are doing SportsLeader uses it to his advantage in class, and it's an effective tool. He just lets them know he will tell their coach and they will be motivated to do the right thing. (One of my players asked him if he understood what he was saying, afraid of the motivation to come, then asked him not to tell. lol). This teacher said he is seeing the biggest impact in the younger players, as they've not developed the bad habits the older players had yet. He is excited to see where those players will be in 3 or 4 years from now, growing up in SportsLeader through our football program. 

I've also had conversations with parents and they are reporting they are seeing a difference in their son's. The biggest thing is the boys are feeling as if they are respected from their coaches because we are taking the time to talk to them and show we care! The parents are grateful they have the support of coaches in forming their son's into quality young men. 

God Bless You,
~Choose to be Awesome and make today an Outstanding day!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flexing Personal Courage

Schools across the country are beginning to see the need to dedicate a full time person to Virtue and Athletics.

Coach Dan Duddy of Monsignor Donovan High School in Toms River NJ shares his personal journey and the exciting steps underway in his new position.

I have recently been hired by our Principal and the Pastor/Director of our parish community consisting of a grade school, a high school, and our huge church to inject Sportsleader throughout our high school building, consisting of 35 sports, which I have personally been able to do for the past 6 years in my football program of which I am head coach.

I am what is called “Pastoral Minister of Athletics” following the title of a dedicated gentleman at Moeller High School of Cincinnati Dan Dever, and somewhat common among our leading Catholic Universities. 

It was a bold and cutting edge offer from our leadership. As coaches we are the leaders of the most influential sector in our nation, athletics. 
Therefore we are in fact the most influential men and women in the strongest nation in the world, and in dealing with our youth; we hold the greatest impact on the future of the WORLD.

Having never entertained retirement from my past job (as of August 1st) as teacher in a public high school, I suddenly found myself with the decision of “handing in my papers”. 

It made no sense to do so to most people. 

After weighing the pro’s and cons by listing them in separate columns and evaluating the list, I found that the “negatives” list was much longer that the “positives” list. 

In fact there was only one item on the positive list, but it outweighed all the negatives. 

“Flexing my own personal courage”, was the lone item that overpowered them all. 

I would never be able to live through the haunting of not taking on this mission. 

“I would leave all doubts about job security, finances, ridicule and conflict from ‘naysayers’ and put them into the hands of my faith”, I thought…and so I have.

This is what Sportsleader is about in 2011 – “BOLDNESS” and “COURAGE” by our coaches.

I have been very pleased to meet or come to know more deeply wonderful coaches and support staff at my new school that is embracing this mission with me. 

Our boys and girls soccer coaches, a great and dedicated married couple with successful traditions, are embracing the program and will be kicking off The Virtue Themes of the Week next week. 

Our Girls tennis coaches have already begun provoking a specific resolve to action from their athletes within this week’s theme – “Boldness”.

Next week’s “Theme of the Week” will be sponsored by the tennis program – “Patience”, will be the “Sports Virtue Theme of the Week” as it is announced throughout the building daily and posted on a massive bulletin board with all the sample resolutions and quotes that are in our Sportsleader playbook.
On Friday the Sports Virtue Athletes of the Week will be announced to the school for all to hear and celebrate. 

I’m living with an excitement that is loaded with challenges, bumps, and triumph. Be BOLD and COURAGEOUS about what is RIGHT.

We need each other for strength. Know that I am here working and gaining strength from you, and keep stepping up to the plate. 

The world needs you. You’ve been called.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An Experience They Will Never Forget

Here is another testimony about the power of Father-Son jersey night.

Please encourage the other head coaches of different sports in your school to begin this tradition. 

Remember to L.E.A.D
Love Others
Encourage Others
Actively Resolve
Deny Yourself

Held the first Xenia Jersey night ceremony following our normal Thursday evening meal.  We have 20 seniors who were presented their Jerseys by their significant males in their lives.  Most were Dads and step Dads.  We had to read a letter from one dad who was starting a new job and couldn't attend.  I presented one jersey to a young man whose dad returns from work by plane each Friday.  This was without question one of the most awesome experiences I have had in coaching. 

I have been fortunate enough to coach an undefeated season,  three trips to the playoffs, a regional championship game, and a Big 33 All-star game.  I can't remember an evening where I went home more proud of what I do that I did tonight.  I think that we have created a tradition in Xenia that is powerful.  I don't think that there was a young player in attendance who wasn't thinking that their night would come and that they would get to hear from their dad that he loved them and appreciated them. 

Thank you.  You continued to challenge me to do this,  it was outside my comfort zone,  but it was powerful beyond my imagination. Kudos to you and to Sports Leader.  You should be so proud to be doing what you are doing at this time in our land.  I am so appreciative of your efforts and persistence with me and our program.  I know that our seniors and their significant males have had an experience that won't go forgotten.

Bob DeLong
Head Football Coach Xenia High School
Xenia, Ohio

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Athlete Essay - A New Beginning

One of the coaches new to our SportsLeader association is Coach Jon Clark. This is his first year as the head football coach of Madison Southern High School in Berea, KY. He has done a pretty amazing job rolling out all of the different elements of the virtue program and the fruits speak for themselves.

Here below is an essay written by one of his players - a testimony to the power of virtuous coaching. It shows how important the player-coach relationship is ... that the virtue of the coach truly does make a difference.

Just imagine if every coaching staff was like this across the country. I highlighted some phrases that hit me the most.
A New Beginning
By Zachary Morgan

The theme for the 2011 Madison Southern Football Team is “A New Beginning”, and that is exactly what this football program has been to me. Before I started playing football I was struggling to find a true hobby, something to be passionate about and that wasn’t the only issue I was having. In school, my grades were fine but at the same time, I knew I wasn’t meeting my full potential. Also, I can’t forget to mention how out of shape I was, even though I’m still out of shape today, it’s night and day compared to where I was before football. Another obstacle for me has been my medical condition known as Aspergers. Aspergers is a high-functioning subset of Autism that enables me to achieve greater heights academically but at the same time limits me socially and also makes coordination somewhat of an issue. Even though it is football that has shaped my life, I ultimately never would have been a part of the team without the help of Coach Jon Clark and the other Coaches.

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be where I am today with the football program, or if they had told me that I’d even be playing football at all, I’d look at them as if they were crazy. And they probably would have been if it weren’t for Coach Clark. When I first heard about a new Madison Southern Football Coach I decided to read up on him and see what he had done in the past. I was shocked at the experience level of Coach Clark, with him having experience from coaching at the high school level and coaching at some successful college programs, I right away saw this as a great opportunity for me to not only find something to be passionate about but also as a way for me to be a part of something bigger than myself, as a way to be part of a team.

Later, after some thinking, I decided I would make an attempt to join the program. After emailing Coach Clark and after a very encouraging phone call, I knew this was going to be a great experience for me. Since I was so out of shape, a plan was put into place to get me where I needed to be physically. Coach Clark, along with Coach Boon and Coach Skinner, worked with me individually after school for about a month at my own pace. When I first started working with the coaches, I couldn’t even squat without any weight, and at the end of that month there was a definite improvement. After that month the coaches and I agreed that I was ready to join the rest of the team during morning workouts before school.

The anxiety coming from the anticipation of the first morning workout was intense. The anxiety I had walking into the gym that first morning workout was probably my first and pretty much my most difficult emotional obstacle to overcome. This was mainly because of my Aspergers and the social difficulties it presented. Even though I did know a few people that were on the team, most of them were new to me. Even not knowing most of the group, with the help of the friends I knew and even the ones I didn’t, I felt like I fit right in. So even though the workout was physical it was still a bigger growth socially and emotionally for me than it was physically.
After another month or so of morning workouts, Spring football came around and I was looking forward to it quite a bit. It was going to be the first time I put on football equipment since the 4th grade. With Spring football there also came another obstacle, the heat. The medication I take for my Aspergers makes me much more heat intolerant. This required me to not only be more hydrated but also to be more cautious of heat related injuries such as heat stroke and dehydration. There were times during the practices where I had difficulties, but in the end I overcame them. This was made possible due to the coaches and the understanding they showed when it comes to the obstacles that stood in my way and of course with the motivation from my teammates. After a long week of practice it was finally time to hit the field for the last time before we got our new turf.

To end Spring football, there was going to be an intra-squad scrimmage on the last Friday of the two week period. It was all I could think about in the days prior to the scrimmage. After school that Friday I could barely wait an hour before showing up to the locker room. When I got to the locker room, on top of everybody’s locker was their jersey that they were to wear that night along with their pants and all their pads. There was a depth chart and roster on the wall, music was playing and as I walked around the corner to my locker and saw the neatly folded, white jersey on top, I knew Spring ball had paid off. Before I knew it, it was game time and we were headed out to the field.

It was a cool crisp evening, the lights had just come on and as we walked on the field the band was playing the school fight song, the stands were loud and people were everywhere. The field numbers had been set up along with the pylons. Everyone’s breath was visible as we started stretching and as game time came closer and closer I had chills running down my spine. And when game time finally came around the chills stopped, almost as if adrenaline had taken over, it was like no other feeling in the world. After the scrimmage I felt proud of myself and my teammates around me. There was no score taken that night, but even if it were I feel as if it wouldn’t have mattered. It was a victory for me and the entire team. We had completed Spring ball and it was back to lifting until the 2nd week in July.

After a few more months of lifting we began conditioning alongside our lifts. We were not only preparing for the season but also for our upcoming camp. This was no ordinary football camp; in fact there was no football at all during the camp. It was all about team building and coming together as a team. This was just another brilliant idea brought to the program by the new coaching staff. There were several things to look forward to about team camp, for instance the new helmet design was to be revealed. Along with those things to look forward to came some uneasy feelings regarding the physical aspect of camp. This was especially true because of the heat, not to mention the fact that it was being held at a National Guard training facility.

The bus ride there was nerve-racking and it wasn’t just me freaking out, a lot of other players were worried about the difficulty of the camp. And Coach Clark telling us to make sure we had tennis shoes on and that they were tied before we got there had us even more scared. When we got there we were welcomed by a National Guard drill sergeant banging on the side of the bus yelling at us to get off the bus and head over to a nearby grassy area for some PT (physical training). If we started with “Up Downs”, “Flutter Kicks”, and “Push Ups” many players, myself included, wondered what else camp had in store for us.

Later on in camp, we were introduced to the “Confidence Course” which is a scaled down version of the obstacle course used to train the National Guard recruits. Everyone on the team went individually but it was far from an individual task. Teammates were encouraged to cheer their fellow teammate on as he ran the course. Although the course is scaled down, it is hardly a walk in the park. Not even the most athletic people on the team found this course easy. When I started out, I didn’t think I could do it and the truth is I couldn’t have without the help of my teammates cheering me on. As I came onto the final stretch I was surprised to see some of my teammates running with me and helping me push through to the finish line.

Near the end of camp Coach Clark went on to tell us about the horse Secretariat and his Triple Crown victory and how it inspired the nation. Coach Clark also was able to relate the story to things like determination and inspiration. One of my favorite things he said was “If a horse can inspire so many people, certainly 80 football players can.”

More than eight months after my original decision to join the football team this journey has culminated in Field Dedication Night. I find a strong parallel between the inauguration of our new football field and the new life I feel I’ve found with and through this football team.

We began our evening offsite sharing a meal with our brothers on our team and our coaches. The bus brought us back to school where our family, friends, cheerleaders, band, and fans were waiting for us and lined our walk to our locker room and field. As I proudly put on my new number 77 jersey I can’t begin to tell you how proud I was to represent my school and my teammates. As we took to the field with our coaches it felt as though the moment I had been waiting for had finally come. I stood on the field and I witnessed military personnel parachute in the American Flag and the game ball. As I looked up into the sky and saw the parachutes open, I knew anything is possible.

When I first started out with football I had many worries, one of them being how we will fare on the scoreboard but now I realize that is not the most important aspect of this team, of course we want to win, but as long as we try our hardest it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says. After looking back at all the obstacles I overcame. This is truly a “New Beginning” for me and for this football program and I am glad to be a part of this family brought together by Coach Clark.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One Man Can Make a Huge Difference

A number of people have really opposed SportsLeader coming into their school as of late. A number of leaders have refused to take the charge for fear of what the boosters might say. A number of coaches have said no because they're afraid the kids will think it's stupid.

Here below is a series of emails from a coach I could not be more proud of. He is from a very small community in rural Illinois. He recently coached through a 24 game losing streak.

He is an example of why virtue is necessary, why virtue works. One man can make a huge difference.

Don't be afraid.

Virtue = Strength, Lou


Thanks for your call. Coincidentally, I was walking into church when you called. So you got ignored for a pretty important speaker! 

Friday night was a blast. The kids were ecstatic! Breaking a 24 game losing streak meant a lot to them. Personally, it was strange for me. Not quite the euphoria I expected or the relief. Felt more like a win should, good and some validation for a lot of hard work. But the most enjoyable was the watching the players enjoy their reward. And watching my two boys enjoy a victory. They can hardly remember the last one (Chase can't at all).

Our jersey night was awesome again. The mentors were spectacular and the kids spoke with such meaning and passion that it motivated us all. We didn't have every boy there, but we only had one without a mentor. He had come and asked me to speak for him that morning. He had tears in his eyes because his dad couldn't make it and it had meant a lot to him last year. I said that I gladly would. As the night began, I contemplated having one of the other coaches talk for him for two reasons, 1) I was very overwhelmed with getting the whole night together, and 2) this young man's mother was the one who wrote the letter to the editor last year that was a not-so-veiled request for the school board to fire me. After thinking about it, talking for him was the right thing to do. As I saw the tears in his eyes as I spoke about him, I knew it was worth it. And he asked me, in front of everyone, nothing about coaching, he asked me to continue being there for them and mentoring them, because they will all continue to need it. Doing what is right, not what is easy, really feels good sometimes.

Here is some player feedback about jersey night:

"Me and my dad became closer because of the jersey night. Now, he is a lot more involved with the team than he was before." - Justin P.

This young man's dad was kicked out of a Freshmen game 2 years ago for verbally assaulting a coach and loudly criticizing other players. Now he is a valuable member of our parent support group.

"The mentor meeting is something that I really enjoy doing. I think that it brings the team and their mentors closer together, and being closer as a team is what a team needs to be successful." - Trevor H.

This young man has a father who works out of state. Each year he, and his older brother, have brought a male family friend whom they admire. Each one of them has quit football only to return to it. They each commented to me how if they hadn't come back to football, they wouldn't have had the mentor (jersey) night experience. 

As far as mentoring, it is going really well. Our water breaks/mentoring sessions are the highlight of the practice. We have yet to have a bad second half of practice this year. I have had a couple chances to stand back and watch the other guys mentor and it is amazing. 8 or so male conversations going on at once. Great. Very proud of my coaches. The senior kids have asked if they can start leading some small group or one on one sessions. ABSOLUTELY! Really proud of them.
If you need any validation for SportsLeader, go to this link

I was nominated for Chicago Bears coach of the week for week 2. There is a message board at the bottom that you should read. I did not win, nor did I deserve to, but read what people wrote about me. You will see Sports Leader smeared all over it, not in name, but in what it stands for. I didn't win the prize, but I won. And Sports Leader deserves much of the credit.

Here below are just a few of over 100:

A huge thank you for everything you have done for our program and my staff and players. We are making positive strides everyday. Again, thanks.

Mike Bickerman

8th grade Science/ Physical Science
Head Football Coach
Rushville-Industry High School

I echo all of the previous comments here for Coach Bickerman.  You would be hard-pressed to find anyone else who embodies all of the traits of character.  As a mother of two young boys, I look forward to the day they have the opportunity to sit in his classroom or play football for him.  He is a candidate truly deserving of this honor and recognition.
One of the programs Coach Bickerman has started ,is before the first game of the season we have a father son meeting (or a man the players look up to).It a nite when the father tells his son a least 1 thing he loves about him ,the player present his dad or mentor with his other game jersery. Coach Bickerman has a heart for the young men he Coaches on  and off the field. As a parent its good to see a coach ,who care more about my son  as person then just a football player.I played football myself in school and we won alot but i didnt have the respect for my coach that my son and his teammates has for Coach Bickerman .Coach Bickerman deserves this award not for wins and loses but for the TEACHER he is
Coach Mike Bickerman started at Rushville-Industry my senior year of high school, and he has been, by far, my favorite coach the school has had. I was in the marching band at RIHS, and Coach Bickerman included not only the fans, but also the marching band. He made it so that we felt like a part of the team, which made us play and cheer even more for our team. Coach Bickerman has had such a great influence on the students of RIHS, and I think he's done an amazing job rebuilding the Rocket football team after losing so many valuable players. Go Coach Bickerman!!!
Coach Mike Bickerman should be coach of the week; if you had coach of the year I would nominate him for that. Coach Bickerman teaches his players more than what is used on the football field. He teaches his players about respect, leadership, compasion, hardwork, and integrity. Every year I watch Coach Bickerman work with his players I gain more respect for him as a person, teacher, and coach. He encourages his players and students to do their best, and he leads by example. Coach Bickerman never lets the score determine the teams success. He ask only that each player give 100% and that they encourage and support their team, fans, and community. I am proud to have this man lead our team on and off the field.
Coach Mike Bickerman and the Rushville-Industry Rockets have showed great character during a 24 game losing streak that finally ended last Friday night. During the hard time, Coach Bickerman continued to show and convey the idea that hard work and perseverance would pay off eventually. During that losing streak, Coach Bickerman did not allow the team to become discouraged. Instead, he continually coached them and showed them that it is important not only to be good football players, but also good men as well. He has continually brought in mentors for the young men and worked to get them involved in positive efforts in the community such as participating in the wounded warrior program, a local effort to provide summer lunches to children called Chow for Children and raising funds and collecting food for the local food pantry. I have known of no coach in the area who puts more work and effort into his program than Coach Bickerman, not only in preparing the young men for football games, but also preparing them for life away from the football field. Coach Bickerman is very deserving of this honor
There is no one more deserving of this honor than Coach Mike Bickerman. There have already been so many comments remarking on his character, his leadership, and his oustanding success as a coach and role model to the team and the community. Having had him as a teacher, I know all of this to be true. Coach Bickerman has raised up some of the finest gentlemen there could be. He has taught them all about how to be honorable men of character throughout their lives. He has gotten them involved in the community in so many ways, and he has taught them so much about servant leadership and how to be truly respectable men of integrity, honor, and character . Not only does he tell them how, but he shows it through the example he sets. He is an excellant role model for any person, young or old, and he definitely deserves this award. Being in the Rushville-Industry Marching Band, some of the most memorable moments of my high school years have been from playing half-time shows and playing our school fight song as these great young men run through the tunnel of band members. Coach Bickerman has truly changed almost all of these players' outlooks on the game of football and life. These boys went through a rough time of losses, but Coach Bickerman kept the boys working hard and persevering through it all, and it finally paid off. Nothing could have been sweeter than hearing Coach Bickerman ring the victory bell last Friday night. Whether the team wins or loses, whether you were a student or team member, everyone has learned something great from him. Who could be more deserving of this award?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creating a Family Atmosphere

The Flint (Michigan) Powers Catholic girls cross country team is one of the first cross country teams to embrace SportsLeader and they have done an amazing job. Some people have had the impression that SportsLeader is only for boys. Not so.

Here are some comments about father-daughter jersey night and team virtue camp.

I think Jersey night was a very big hit!  Huge compliments to Powers Catholic. Many others mentioned the family atmosphere, and the closeness and the feeling of home, etc.  There was a lot of confidence that Powers was a great choice, especially coming from Freshman parents!

Just a quick note to thank you and Dave W. for the jersey event this evening. As we discussed - the lessons our children learn from participating in sports will serve them well in all of the endeavors they choose to chase in life.

Coach Quinn,  
I didn't get a chance to tell you tonight at the jersey ceremony, but I wanted to tell you that the ceremony was very nice and I hope it continues as a Powers tradition. I have noticed Madison has taken a completely different approach compared to last year. She has much more confidence in herself and she is really looking forward to this season. Tonight was great. I really enjoyed it. Thanks again for devoting your time and experience.  
Good luck this season,

Here below is a photo of half the team. An interesting thing to note is that last year they had around 28 girls or so. This year they have 44 I believe and the girls have said that they feel closer, like a tighter-knit family, even though the team is bigger.

Here below are some comments about their team camp they had a few weeks ago.

Hey Coach Quinn!
I absolutely loved camp this year. I thought it was great that all the activities were right there and that we didn't have to drive anywhere. The activities were all fun, especially the zip line and giant swing, and playing volleyball and kayaking was great too. I thought having the creek to sit in was very convenient. I really liked the team meetings we had, even if they got a little long at times. It was an awesome way to get to know the other girls better, and it was nice getting to know the coaches better as well. I LOVE that we all have buddies. I think all the meetings have and will help us grow closer as a team, which is more important than ever because we have so many girls! Thanks for making camp so great!

Coach Quinn,
This is a great program.  Thank you for following through with the kids.  Morgan has really taken to heart her goals for enhancing her faith and praying more often. I just wanted you to know what you are sharing with them is not falling on deaf ears.    
Lisa,   Morgan's Mom

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Fitting Tribute

Yesterday was an anniversary that was both painful and powerful. I'm sure many of you saw the tributes on TV offered by the NFL, all very well done.

One SportsLeader team, Cincinnati St Gertrude, had one as well. The below was read before their game.

Yet another way to relate virtue with everything important in our lives. I wish I had this growing up with my coaches.
At 8:45am on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001 our world changed. All Americans stood in shock at the tragedy we were witnessing. At 9:03am, we were angered at the dark realization that we were under attack. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with mixed emotions. We felt sorrow for the families that just lost loved ones. We felt anger at the cowardly terrorists who had attacked us. We felt confused by the evil and hatred directed at us. We felt fear of what might happen next and where it might happen.

Then we felt pride, pride in America. We mourned the loss of 2,819 innocent lives, 23 New York Police Officers and 343 New York Firefighters. We also witnessed first hand the virtues that make Americans great. We heard stories of every day Americans displaying Charity, Humility and unbreakable Courage.

We felt pride as we heard of those that in this tragedy put the life's of their coworker before their own. 80 people that were at work between the 88th and 92nd floor of the first tower survived the attacks because of the Selfless Charity 2 Port Authority employees had for others. These 2 men gave their lives so 80 others may live. They are just one of many examples of heroic actions that day.

We felt pride as we watched the police officers and firefighters of New York City run to ground zero as thousands were running away. These men and woman displayed Humility as they felt they were just doing their job. Those brave men and women did not think they were special, it was their duty to serve those in danger. They ran in without hesitation.

We feel pride on this Patriots Day, 10 years later, knowing that there are men and women Courageously defending our country in the Army, Navy, Air Force,  Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard protecting us from the evil of that day, affording us the freedoms we enjoy every day. These brave sailors and soldiers choose to serve in our armed forces, many because of what they witnessed on 9/11/2001.

We remember all of those devastating horrible things but we are encouraged by the brave acts of Charity, Humility and Courage of Americans that day. They exemplify why America is the Land of the Free BECAUSE of the Brave! God Bless America and God Bless those that protect her.  

One of our speakers from our last coaches clinic was David Craig Penner. He is now a redshirt freshman football player at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. For one of their games they honored their troops with special jerseys. 

Virtue is something to celebrate and we should do all we can to do it!
(Steve Hiscock for Liam Ricahrds Photography)