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 -

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Ryan Wikel, head football coach at Sandusky St Mary's Central Catholic High School, had his first ever Senior Sendoff event last week.

He had 10 players, 9 coaches and 1 chaplain Father Jason in attendance.

They gathered at the South Shore Inn, played a game of kickball - players against coaches that went 9 innings plus a 2 out sudden death overtime where the coaches prevailed 7-6. They enjoyed some food and then they went inside for a chat.

Coach gave each of the 10 players a mentoring group, just like the coaches ... so this year all the football players will have a coach and a graduated Senior who will be helping them. Coach Wikel said, “I feel like it is important to keep the graduating seniors connected to our program.  Since this is year one of our virtue program, I wanted this group to be a part of it.”

He told them that he'd like each of them to text their mentoring group at least 5 or 6 times throughout the upcoming year to encourage the young men to be virtuous. For example on homecoming and prom nights ... send a text to your group to make good decisions, don't do anything you might regret. “I have a sheet of important dates that revolves around the school calendar.  Midterm dates and end of quarter are important for grades. School functions such as dances and opening night of football are other important dates.”

The great thing about this is that maybe because the new college Freshman is texting the high school players to make good decisions, that will help them stay on the straight and narrow as well because they are telling others to do it ...
He also gave them a sheet with all of the names and contact information of all the coaches and assured them that they are forever a part of the football family.

To close it out he gave each player a book that he signed - "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  “It is a good read and a small token for the graduating seniors.  They may not read it right away, but maybe they pick it up 10 years from now and it makes an impact.”

Since the event he has received numerous texts from his assistant coaches letting him know how much fun it was to simply play a game with the guys. Admittedly some of the guys were sore for a few days because some "new muscles were freshly discovered" but that it was worth it.

A new tradition has been started ... a lifelong memory created!

There's still time to get in this event if you have not done so already. You won't regret it. It is called Senior Sendoff and the objective is to gather your graduating Seniors one last time ... Here is a recent example.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I had a pretty tough phone conversation with an athlete who I got to know rather well during this past year. 

I got to know him well during a fall sport. His coaches did an amazing job mentoring and installing the virtue program and it was both fun and inspiring watching them grow and excel throughout the year.
This young man is an excellent student and also a Spring sport athlete.
His team made it to the State Championships in this spring sport and the night before the event the team wound up being disqualified because of four teammates who decided to smoke something illegal.
To say he was crushed is an understatement. He broke personal records, team records and also helped his team win many games including their conference championship.
Why? Why would these teammates do this? Why so close to what they had worked so hard for - for 4 years?
These young men were Seniors.
One is the presumed Valedictorian ... Valedictorian, College scholarship, State Championship game ... possibly all down the tubes for a quick smoke ...
All four kids one could easily qualify as "not needing mentoring" because they are good students, dedicated and driven, from good families ...
What came to mind is that there are so many coaches who will not buy into a virtue and mentoring program ... "We do that already."
But what can categorically be stated is that whether or not you do it, our young people need 100 times more of it.
Lets encourage one another on our staffs that we really NEED to give more to our young people. Let's make the sacrifice.

Friday, May 25, 2012


I would recommend forwarding this to all of your coaches and athletes. We all need to hear this type of encouragement more often.
A Navy SEAL's Wise Advice to Graduates
By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor

• Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens was commencement speaker at Tufts
• William Bennett says Greitens' message was unusual and important
• He says Greitens stressed service to others rather than self-seeking pursuits
• Bennett: The message was to sacrifice, to serve one's country and to live magnanimously
Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
(CNN) -- Each spring, I monitor the list of commencement speakers at our nation's leading colleges and universities. Who is chosen, and who is not, tells us a lot about academia's perception of the most important voices in America.

Two of this year's most popular speakers were CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who spoke at both Harvard University and Duke University, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who spoke at both Tulane University and the University of Washington. Perhaps one of the most original choices, and the one who certainly stood out from the rest, was U.S. Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, who addressed the 2012 graduating class of Tufts University Sunday.

It's not often that elite universities honor military service members with commencement addresses. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower once spoke to a graduating class at an Ivy League university and remarked, "Your business is to put me out of business." So I applaud Tufts University for inviting Greitens.

He is not a household name, but he should be. The 38-year-old Rhodes scholar and humanitarian worker turned U.S. Navy SEAL served multiple tours overseas fighting terrorist cells and received several military awards. Today, he is the CEO of the Mission Continues, a nonprofit foundation he created to help wounded and disabled veterans find ways to serve their communities at home.

To the graduates of Tufts, Greitens issued a unique challenge, one rarely heard at commencements today: to sacrifice, to serve one's country and to live magnanimously. He called students to think above and beyond their own dreams, their own desires, and to be strong. Aristotle called this megalopsychia, greatness of soul, and considered it one of the greatest moral virtues.
" 'What kind of service can I provide? What kind of positive difference can I make in the lives of others?' If you work every day to live an answer to that question, then you will be stronger," Greitens declared.

After dodging bullets, withstanding IED explosions and going days without sleep, Greitens realized the strength he needed to excel as a SEAL was found outside his own physical abilities. In his weakest moments, Greitens was able to find his greatest strength in service.

"The more I thought about myself, the weaker I became. The more I recognized that I was serving a purpose larger than myself, the stronger I became," he told the students at Tufts. He served his country and defended the weak against the rapacity of the wicked.

Fifty years ago, Greitens' remarks would have been the norm. But through the years, the focus of education, particularly higher education, has shifted from selflessness to self-obsession. Many commencement speakers today tell students to "Dream big" and "Do what you love." It may be feel-good career advice, but it's incomplete life advice. Philosopher Martin Buber wrote, "All education 'worthy' of the name is education of character." Greitens gave the Tufts student an eloquent firsthand example.

Greitens said it this way: "The best definition I have ever heard of a vocation is that it's the place where your great joy meets the world's great need. ... We need all of you to find your vocation. To develop your joys, your passions, and to match them to the world's great needs."

Not all men are meant to be Navy SEALs, or even serve in the military, but all men can serve. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recognized, "The life of man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams but in active charity and in willing service."

We ask our students, what do you want to do when you grow up? Instead, we should ask them, whom or Whom, and what ideals do you want to serve when you grow up? That is a worthy thing to consider at graduation. Good for Greitens; good for Tufts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


One of the most powerful elements of being a coach is that the young person is choosing to be with you, choosing to learn from you.
In many instances, especially with boys and young men, they identify themselves with the sport they play. They see themselves as a football player, as a baseball player.
This has good and bad in it.
We should identify with who we ARE not what we DO. 
The bad side of this can be seen by the many professional athletes who no longer see a purpose to their lives once they retire because they have identified themselves TOO MUCH with what they did. They never truly found out who they were.
The good side of it - from the the point of view of a coach-mentor is that you have a tremendous platform to impact the young people you coach, because they identify with you very easily and very quickly.
Many coaches I have spoken with though, feel unworthy or incapable of being this mentor because they feel like they do not have their life in order.
In short, "I'm not perfect so I can't be good mentor."
Well the exact opposite is true. We might think that "only the perfect" are good mentors but how many of your athletes are lining up to talk with "the so called perfect"? Not many, if any.
As a coaching staff, as a coaching community, let's remind and encourage one another to take this seriously and make a greater effort to really breathe purpose, direction and strength into the lives of our young people.
Let's help them focus on who they are and who they can become, not just on what they do.
The better job WE do with this - the better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers ... families we will have in the future.
We will be STRONGER!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Building traditions within teams and schools is an integral part of what we try to do at SportsLeader. It is all a part of creating/strengthening a culture of virtue that inspires everyone to be a better person.
I was honored to be a part of two of those traditions over the past few weeks at Newport Central Catholic high school with Coach Denny Barnes and his softball team.
The traditions: Father-Daughter Jersey Night and Letter to Mom.
This is a very special group of families. The young ladies, their Dads and their Moms were all very inspiring. The level of of love, sincerity and genuine care by the Dads as they told their daughters how proud of them they were and that they loved them ... it was moving.
As the Dads would speak I would look at the girls faces ... the look in their eyes was priceless. You could tell that they really appreciated hearing those things from their Dad.
At the Letter to Mom Ceremony, each of the girls wrote a letter to their Mom and then read it to her in public. Coach would call up a Mother-Daughter duo, the Mom got to sit while the daughter read the letter. I was amazed at how much effort, detail and heart the girls put into this. The Moms were of course very grateful.
Before the ceremony with the Moms, I spoke with the girls and asked them what they thought about all these events and such. In short, they loved these so much that they want another one called Letter to Dad.
I can't encourage you enough to make these traditions a part of your team ...
Here below is a testimony from one of the Dads.
Mr. Noll,

I would wish to thank you organizing such a wonderful event last night.  The father/daughter night for the girls softball team was simply the most amazing experience, other than the birth of my daughters, that I have ever had the privilege to be part of.  The outpouring of emotion from each and every father was the most incredible expression of love I have ever had the chance to witness.  From a personal standpoint, the opportunity to express the love, pride and admiration that I have for my daughter to others in a public forum was an amazing feeling for both of us.  While I know that my daughter can see, feel and experience the love I have for her, to be able to share that with others was an amazing feeling.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Judd and he expressed that this was a program that was going to be implemented throughout the school for all programs.  If there is ANYWAY I can be of assistance to promote this program please feel free to call on me.  I would be more than honored to explain to others the impact this had on myself and my daughter.

Again, thank you so very much for this program and thank you very much for giving my daughter the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful school as Newport Central Catholic.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I was blessed to be with an inspiring coaching staff last night at Madison Southern High School in Berea, KY. They are integrating the SportsLeader virtue program into all of their sports. Head football coach Jon Clark has been with us for over a year now and the impact that he and his staff have made on their athletes moved the Principal to want this school-wide.
Jon is an outstanding coach with a heart of gold. He is inspiring to say the very least.
When I arrived he was doing everything he could to get the new weight room finished, cleaned, platforms in place. You could see the fire in his eyes to help teach his boys to value new equipment and that this was all part of the process of creating an environment of virtue, of strength, of positive change.
At one point a group of players popped in to take a peek and it was rewarding to watch Coach Clark interact with these young men. You could tell that these young men loved their coach.
Coach shared an excellent story with me. Last year when he began adapting a virtue theme of the week, many of the players did not know what the words meant ... words like virtue, bold, determined ... they just weren't a part of their vocabulary.
Recently he called a team meeting and he asked his players to brainstorm and come up with the top 5 virtues that a Madison Southern High School football player should have. He watched and listened in amazement as his players argued about which virtues were the most important ... 
At the end of the evening as we were wrapping up Coach said something else that spoke volumes about what this is all about ... virtue and mentoring has above all made me a better person, made me a better coach. 
Virtue and mentoring CAN and WILL change our society. Keep plugging!
Maybe your kids did not "seem to listen" today ... maybe they don't "seem to be getting it".
Be Strong - they are. They will surprise you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I heard a song recently that really inspired me. It is a bit on the heavy side but the lyrics are powerful. 
Combined with NFL Linebacker Junior Seau's passing ... the words ring even more urgent.
As coaches we have amazing opportunities every day around the young people we coach to make a lasting impact.
Let's make the most of it.

Song "One Day Too Late" by "Skillet" from album "Awake"


Tick tock hear the clock countdown
Wish the minute hand could be rewound
So much to do and so much I need to say
Will tomorrow be too late

Feel the moment slip into the past
Like sand through an hourglass
In the madness I guess I just forget
To do all the things I said

Time passes by
Never thought I'd wind up
One step behind
Now I've made my mind up

Today I'm gonna try a little harder
Gonna make every minute last longer
Gonna learn to forgive and forget
'Cause we don't have long, gonna make the most of it

Today I'm gonna love my enemies
Reach out to somebody who needs me
Make a change, make the world a better place
'Cause tomorrow could be one day too late
One day too late
One day too late

Tick tock hear my life pass by
I can't erase and I can't rewind
Of all the things I regret the most I do...
Wish I'd spent more time with you

Here's my chance for a new beginning
I saved the best for a better ending
And in the end I'll make it up to you, you'll see
You'll get the very best of me

Your time is running out
You're never gonna get it back
Make the most of every moment
Stop saving the best for last

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


A great way to unite your team over the summer is a Virtue Camp - an opportunity to get away, say for 24 hours, and focus on your team goals, team chemistry, and the real purpose of sports.

Ice-breaker games, swimming, physical challenges, dodgeball, bonfire, fishing, movie clips ... just some of the things we do at Camp River Ridge with teams in the mid-west who want to take their team to the next level.

If you live too far away, we can help you organize one closer to home.

If you are interested, just send us a note.

But - definitely look at your calendars and plan for one.