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 -

Friday, April 27, 2012


When I first became a head football coach I soon realized that coaching football fundamentals and schemes was a small part of coaching.  The other part was the need to teach life lessons, values, and counsel these young men in times of crises. I came up with many ways to accomplish this and many were very successful but very hard to continue. I searched lessons on the internet, bought books, had daily quotes, had special speakers but never had a set curriculum to follow. It seemed I was always behind and I was out of ideas, but I knew this was a very important part of coaching a team. At one point I even contemplated changing schools so I could start over with all the things I had done.

Then I heard about SportsLeader and attended one of their clinics. While at the clinic I bought a book with stories teaching virtues, but instead of jumping on board using the whole program, I just used the stories as a resource to teach lessons for the next two years. I really didn’t understand how the program was supposed to work and since I had done it myself for so long I was afraid of trying something new. When I ran out of ideas, again, I finally jumped on board to the total SportsgLeader Program.

I had Lou come and teach the program to my staff and I and the rest is history. The program has made this part of coaching so much easier. The program is easy to follow and the curriculum is very detailed. Everything I had done in the past was all laid out for me in a very easy format for me and my coaches to follow.

One of the things that I was a little concerned about was that some people think that teaching simple human virtues is somehow crossing a line at a public school. It has never been a problem because SportsLeader has found a way to teach these much needed virtues by presenting it in a way that anyone can accept: goal setting, quotes, movie clips ... it has been a very unifying force within our program

In fact, we have an assistant coach who proclaims to be an atheist and he ended up doing the best job incorporating the program and teaching these important virtues. It was amazing to see him inspiring and teaching our players and how well they responded to him.

SportsLeader has helped change my program in a positive way and has done it with minimal effort.  I wish I would have had this program ten years ago it would have saved me a lot of time, money and effort. We are looking forward to seeing what new and exciting stories SL has come up with in the new Season 2 version.

Kent Wright
Head Football Coach
Lebanon High School

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Dear SportsLeader Supporter,

We are now working with well over 100 schools across the United States and Canada and momentum is growing. We have touched over 5,000 lives with mentoring, father-son and father-daughter jersey nights, virtue camps and dozens of other traditions that have imprinted memories that will last a lifetime.


Because of SportsLeader's rapid growth, we are looking to bring on one and possibly two new full time members to effectively manage the positive acceptance with coaches and athletes at every level. In our short history of eight years, we have survived almost entirely on limited donations. However, we have reached the point that an annual fundraising request has become critical to our ability to accomplish the "mission" of helping coaches raise the maturity level of their athletes. The NEED for virtue has never been more apparent.

We must rely on your help. If you have ever benefitted from SportsLeader, we ask you to consider participating in our first SportsLeader fund drive.

Please consider a contribution of $30, $50, $100, $1,000 or more. Your financial support will directly aid coaches in their quest to help young people become the type of mature citizens - athletes we can all be proud of.


SportsLeader, Inc. is a 501 (c)  (3) not for profit and all donations are fully tax deductible.  If you prefer writing a check, please  make payable to SportsLeader, Inc. and mail to:

SportsLeader, Inc.
1974 - A Douglass Blvd.
Louisville, KY 40205

We are grateful for your support.

Best regards,

Lou Judd

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Impact a Letter Can Make

One of the traditions that we encourage coaches to make a part their program is a "season-ending letter" to each one of the players in their mentor group.
I just recently had a personal experience of how amazing a simple letter can be, both for the writer and the receiver.
23 years ago when I was a Junior in High School I had a math teacher by the name of Robert Sagedy. He was, without a doubt, THE best math teacher and one of the the best overall teachers I ever had.
As many of you know, I am not the "sharpest tool in the shed" and in math, even less. 
At the end of the school year Mr Sagedy was kind enough to write me a very nice one page letter. Mr Sagedy is the type of man who truly loves his students and he poured everything he had into them in an astounding way.
Well a few days ago my Dad found that letter at his home and he mailed it to me. It is hard to describe what one feels reading something like that 23 years later.
Today as I was driving, out of the blue, I remembered that one day in class I was not getting what Mr Sagedy was trying to teach us, not much of a surprise there. But what was a surprise was that Mr Sagedy tried 9 different ways to explain the concept. He never got upset, never got flustered or impatient.
Finally on the 9th try I got it and from that moment forward I did so much better in that class. A little background - I hated math and did not do well in it. So helping a student understand, excel and "slightly" enjoy the subject is pretty miraculous.
I decided to make an effort to see if I could make contact with this great man. Here is the beauty of the internet. 
I found a Robert A. Sagedy with the same zip code as my old high school. I called and the answering machine picked up - it was Rita Sagedy. I had no idea what I was doing so I left the message saying that I was looking for an old teacher, apologizing if I had the wrong number.
Rita called back 4 minutes later. She explained that her husband is 73 and has alzheimer's and probably will not remember you but please give it a try and be patient. She put us on speaker.
He instantly remembered who I was and we had a wonderful conversation to the complete amazement of his wife. She said he has trouble remembering what he had for breakfast much less ... 
I explained that I had 5 children and he quipped, "Well at least you learned how to multiply." Classic Mr Sagedy.
At the end of the call, he got very emotional and said, "This is what I live for. To know that I did some good in someone's life. You have no idea what this means to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've made my year. Please mail me a letter with a family photo. I appreciate this so much."
You can't put a price tag on an experience like this.
So please - write a letter to your players. You never know - that letter might help you, the writer, 23 years later more that you will ever know right now.
And of you feel the need to reach out to a former teacher or coach to thank them. Please do. You may make their year!
Virtue = Strength, Lou

Ohio State Wrestling Coach Discusses Heartache of Losing Son


Coach Tom Ryan is a special man at the collegiate level. The pressure to win, the pressure to get your priorities out of whack is unrelenting ... but as you can read from the story below, he has his perspective very clear.
By Paul Daugherty: Ohio State wrestling coach discusses heartache of losing son

Tom Ryan said, "Ache is my favorite word when it comes to learning something." Nothing comes free, he suggested. Not wisdom, not truth, not success. Not even sadness. Sadness costs.

Ryan is a wrestling coach, one of the best. In six years at Ohio State, Ryan has led the Buckeyes to two second-place finishes nationally. This past season, they beat Ryan’s alma mater and perennial title contender Iowa, in a dual meet. He was at Elder High on Sunday, working a clinic for kids attending the Premier Technique Wrestling Camp.

When it was over, Ryan offered a short talk. There was nothing exceptional about his urgings. Work hard, sacrifice for your craft, strive to be your best. The room was politely quiet. Then he talked about sadness, and everything changed.

Teague died Feb. 16, 2004. He was 5 when his heart stopped suddenly as he ran around the house, this glad presence, playing hide-and-seek with his mom.

Teague was Tom’s son. Or, rather, is Tom’s son. Death doesn’t change that. "I have four children," is how Tom began his talk. Three are alive.

How Tom has ached and what he has learned could fill a star with tears and a library with books. Five-year-olds aren’t supposed to die. They are the definition of life. There aren’t enough Whys in the world to frame adequately that aching question. Some answers, we’re not meant to know.

The ache has spawned learning for Tom Ryan, even as no one should have to learn anything that way.

"I know that the unexpected can happen in an instant," Tom says now. "I know there’s a heaven. I know to live every second."

Teague Ryan was on his back on a coffee table. His dad administered CPR. Tom Ryan tried it for 14 minutes – he remembers now, still, exactly 14 minutes – then he picked up his son and ran out into the street. Nine-one-one had been called. Tom didn’t know what else to do. So he took Teague over his shoulder and down the street, hoping to buy a few seconds.

His wife was in the house, screaming for the paramedics to hurry.

Forty-five minutes later, 5-year-old Teague Ryan was pronounced dead. Six months earlier, he’d had a throat infection. No one knew it had spread to his heart muscle and weakened it severely. Teague had a physical exam just three weeks earlier. "They checked his heart," Tom said. "Perfectly fine. No warning whatsoever."

Teague had spent all of the previous two days by his dad’s side. Tom coached wrestling at Hofstra at the time. Tom said, "It turned out Teague was a time bomb. It could have happened any time."

You can bury a 5-year-old, but that’s purely physical. Everything else remains.

"What kind of kid was he?” I asked Tom.

"Like every dad would say: Best kid in the world," said Tom. "He was magnetic. He would tell girls they were adorable. Had a personality bigger than life."

Teague wore his sister’s one-piece bathing suit to the pool, because he thought it looked like a wrestler’s singlet. He had a pair of woolen mittens he liked so much, he wrestled in them. Wrestling is a clannish sport: Sons wrestle because fathers wrestled. Fathers learn in the rec rooms of their childhood homes. Tom looked at his youngest son and saw a kid who’d go as far as his desire would take him.

"He was full of life. He was an original. Flavorful," Tom called Teague.

Now, eight years later, Teague is the inspiration Tom would give anything not to have.

Tom has delivered his message of ache and learning hundreds of times. It has helped him heal. He has a platform for impacting the lives of the young. He feels blessed. He really does.

"When I realized that heaven is real and Teague was in heaven and that’s where I’m going to go, that’s when I was OK talking about it," is how Tom explained it. "We all have pain in life. I don’t know too many people who don’t have something that brings them to their knees. But I know there’s something after."

They named Teague after an Oklahoma State wrestler Tom knew, Teague Moore. Plus, they just liked the name. Tom believed Teague meant "warrior" in Irish and/or Gaelic. Actually, Teague means "poet or philosopher." Maybe Teague Ryan would have been those, too.

Maybe he is already, inside his dad. "Nobody caused me to hunger for the truth of life more than this kid has," Tom said. He offered a picture he’d taken when Teague was 5, not long before he died. Teague wore a singlet, arms extended and curled, striking a victory pose.

"That was Teague," Tom said.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


As a follow-up to our list of things high school athletes DO WANT in a coach ... Here are the top 5 they DO NOT WANT in a coach.
1. Mean, disrespectful, yells with no purpose. Discouraging and negative, belittles players.
2. Lazy, not dedicated. They are only there for practices and games and they don't care about anything else.
3. Favoritism - Starts players not based on skill or earned hard work.
4. Not understanding or willing to listen. Unable to encourage after a loss or disappointments.
5. Arrogant and sarcastic. Makes players feel even worse after they know they made a mistake. 
Analyzing all 5 there is one virtue that stands out immediately that will get rid of most of these bad qualities pretty quick: CHARITY.
We define charity very simply as the strength to do good for others.

Monday, April 9, 2012



I wanted to thank you for introducing our wrestling team to the virtue formation program.

The St. Xavier wrestlers, parents, coaches and community really appreciate the unique benefits of the Sports Leader Virtue Program. This season you could see the positive impact, on the mat and off. We always look at athletics as an extension of the classroom. Wrestling provides opportunities to assist young men in their formation as sons, leaders and some day, fathers and husbands.

The Sports Leaders format has allowed us to incorporate virtue into most aspects of our practices, matches and the time we spend interacting with each other as a team.

You could see the impact each day; wrestlers volunteering within the program to help in any way they could, giving of themselves for others. Guys wanted to do well not for just for themselves, but for the team.

You could also notice little things that demonstrated their friendships growing within the team. We used to ask for volunteers to clean the mats after each practice. Now guys come up to the coaches and ask if they can take care of that.
Another thing we noticed were guys stopping in the classrooms during their free periods, just to sit in and visit their teammates and coaches. They definitely feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

The team has grown in their relationships with each other and their brothers, sisters and parents. The “Singlet Night,” the “Mom Letters” and “Movie Nights” are just a few of the many ways of fomenting the positive relationships we strive for.  We look forward to next season and the continued relationship with Sports Leader.

Coach Tim “Mac” McDonald
Head Wrestling Coach St. Xavier HS
Cincinnati, Ohio

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Here is a tremendous testimony written by a former player ... this is a number of years after his experience. You can see how much of an impact his coaches made.
Well, well worth the read.
By: Casey Bolsega 

As some of you may know, I attended Roncalli High School and played football for the Rebels. This article was also featured in the 2011 Indiana Football Digest, but I wanted to share it with all of you as well. This is about my time at Roncalli and what Rebel Football means to me. I hope you enjoy, it truly is from my heart.

"I would like to thank Paul Condry for giving me the opportunity to talk about a person who has had one of the most positive impacts in my life. I had the pleasure to play under Bruce Scifres for three varsity seasons. It’s difficult to put into words the life lessons I learned through playing Roncalli Rebel Football, with Scifres being the cornerstone of it all.

During my time at Roncalli I was a member of three Class 4A State Championship teams. I never lost a playoff game. The victory my senior year made Roncalli the first school in the state of Indiana to win eight state championships. Although success was obvious on the field, our success was driven by faith.

Bruce Scifres has taught me more about the game of life than any person besides my mother. He leads by example. He would never ask anything of his team that he did not fully believe would benefit them, not only on the football field, but throughout their lives.

I am taking this opportunity to talk about how football shaped my faith and the impact Scifres has had on my life.


Faith, family, and football is a phrase that is used quite often, but one that is rarely lived out on the gridiron as well as life. Integrating faith into football is a unique concept to many people.

Roncalli Football strengthened my faith. Praying after every practice, before every play, during plays, and even when I was watching my team from the sideline, became an integral part of football. Something as simple as “Lord help me execute,” became words that were whispered thousands of times on hollowed ground on Friday nights.

Scifres is known as being a strategist when it comes to football, but few people know about his prayer strategy and how it leads to success. Never once did I pray to win a game. Never once did I ask God to help us beat a team. Instead, I asked God to help me execute my assignment. I prayed for a safe contest. I prayed for the strength to overcome any adversity I would face.

Scifres always told us that by using our God giving talents on the football field and laying everything on the line in a way we glorified God. Scifres would never take credit; instead he would give all the credit to God. That might be a hard concept to grasp, but not if you have a firm grasp on your own faith and what your ministry is on this earth.

There are faith-driven moments that give me chills to this day that were part of our “pre-game warm-up.” During our pre-game stretches, Chris “Cubby” Belch, our defensive coordinator, would walk around to every player with a crucifix in his hand, and allow them to touch it, reminding us of the pain endured by Jesus Christ for us. It reminded us that no obstacle, pain, or adversity we would face would be greater than Jesus Christ dying so that we may have everlasting life.

Before we left the locker room and headed out to the battlefield, Scifres would lead the team in “building the fortress.” Every player would come together, put their helmet up in the air, and build the fortress. Scifres would speak and 90+ brothers would echo him. “Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside, Christ over me, Christ under my feet, let all around me be Christ.” Building the fortress before every game was a constant reminder that in order for us to achieve our goals, Christ must encompass our every action on the field.

There are many things that contributed to Roncalli’s success over the past 25 years. We’ve had teams that are very talented. We’ve had teams that are very hard working. But every team at Roncalli is taught how to play faith-driven football. That is where the success comes from. Scifres used to always say, “I’m a firm believer that when God mixes with ordinary people, extraordinary things can happen.” To me, faith and football is an interdependent relationship. Luckily, we had faith on our side, and used our God given gifts to make history.


The love of a football coach, some might think it is a bit unusual to talk about the love shared between coaches and players. For me, it has taught me to be the man that I am today. To give you a little better background about myself, I was raised in a single parent household. My mother played the roll of a father as well as being an exemplary mom. In the early years, lacking a positive male role model caused some struggles in my life, but I was introduced to a large group of positive male role models in the form of coaches when I entered Roncalli’s halls.

In a recent interview with Scifres, he talks about what he thinks it means to be a successful father. “The role of a father is by far the most important job I will ever have,” Scifres said. “I think anyone that is a father that is their most important job. Loving, taking care of our kids, teaching them right form wrong, and being a good role model for them. I think we need to strive each day to convince our kids that we love them. We try to carry that over into our football program too.”

Scifres practices what he preaches. Every year, he takes a new group of sophomores; fine tunes them to be impactful on the football field, but shows them the love and compassion to ensure that they know how much he loves them. I can’t recall all of the instances in which a coach told me they loved me, but what is engraved in my head is the love that was shown by my coaches.

It didn’t stop with Scifres. The whole coaching staff was simply mirror images of Scifres. Chris Strykowski, Chris “Cubby” Belch, Ray Shelburn, Bobby “Grif 1” Griffin, Jerre McManama, Eddie Keller, Brian Lauck, Mike Sahm, Trevor Wilson, and Tim Puntarelli all showed the love of a football coach.

I can recall Coach Puntarelli, who also is the Dean of Students at Roncalli, coming up to me before every game, give me a hug, look me in the eyes, and say “I love you.” I’m not sure if he did that with everyone, just a select few, just me, or players that he knew needed that male role model, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that his actions spoke louder than his words. I knew “Pun,” as we called him, did in fact love me.

Scifres was the leader of the pack, but the rest of the coaches knew the role they played, not only in the Xs and Os, but in our young lives was just as crucial.

Being involved with high school football has given me a new outlook on the positive influence this group of men had on my life. I have encountered Scifres and other coaches more in the past year than I have since I played for them. Each time I see them, it’s common practice for us to embrace with a hug. I often wonder what other people think when they see two grown men hugging, but then again I do not care. I am hugging the men who have become fathers for me. They were fathers when I didn’t have one. They were fathers when my head was down. They were fathers there to tell me what is right and what is wrong when sometimes I didn’t know for myself. Most importantly, they taught me how to be a father, something that will stay with me until I have the opportunity to be father myself and continue the legacy of being a great man, taught by Bruce Scifres and all my other coaches at Roncalli High School.

I will end with a moment that I will never forget. This past year I had one of the proudest moments in my professional career. I was with Scifres at the Coach of the Week banquet this past season, he looked me in the eyes, and said “Casey, I love you, and I’m so proud of the man you have become.” My response was a simple “thank you,” but Scifres knew that those two words spoke volumes about my appreciation for all he has done for me.

Thank you to Coach Scifres and all of my other coaches at Roncalli for helping me become a man. Luckily for me, they were able to teach me these valuable lessons through the game I love, football." 

Monday, April 2, 2012


I had the opportunity to speak with twelve athletes last week at Newport Central Catholic High School. The group consisted of 6 boys and 6 girls, all Seniors, who had played a variety of sports. I was impressed to see that their answers were all very similar. They answered the surveys individually and then we discussed their responses.
1. Just (Fair and honest) - Lets those who try their hardest and do their best play
2. A good communicator and motivator - be able to motivate each individual and the team as a group
3. Disciplinarian - can be fun but also lays down the law, strict but caring
4. Personable - Works to help all players not just some, is approachable. Helps off the field - encourages good grades, etc
5. Respectful - Has a cool head - doesn't explode at bad calls or when things do not go perfect. 
Do you and and your coaching staff live these 5 qualities - virtues?
We will share the 5 things they would NOT want in a coach later this week.