“… if we should win, let it be by the code, with our faith and honor held high; and if we should lose, let us stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.” — Knute Rockne

For the last 30 years I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach and teach young people at both the college and high school level. For many of those years, I thought the value of a coach was based on his wins and losses and the number of state championships his teams won. Today, as athletic director of St. Dominic Academy in Auburn, Maine, I maintain a very different perspective. It remains important to find coaches who know their sport well and who can push their players to excel, but it is also important that coaches take the longer term view, teaching our players real life lessons while making the season fun and enjoyable. We remind our coaches that all of their players are children of God and as such, deserve their utmost respect and love.

Two years ago, one of our parents introduced me to a program from the University of Notre Dame called Play Like a Champion Today. I must admit, I was skeptical at first, but it did not take long for me to realize a program like this could transform youth athletics and the culture of high school sports. Although we were proud of the character of our sports programs, it quickly became apparent that there was plenty of room for improvement.

The PLC program has been developed by leaders in the fields of education, psychology, coaching, and ministry to elevate the culture of education and youth sports through child-centered (not parent or coach centered) educational practices. Through the PLC program we are able to teach coaches, athletes, teachers, parents, and youth sport administrators through research-based, child-centered educational practices that foster moral, social, and spiritual development. PLC is centered around the principles of justice, tolerance, cooperation, respect, and solidarity and offers the support, tradition, and resources of academic and athletic excellence that mark the University of Notre Dame.

Through the Play Like A Champion Today program, schools around the country, like St. Dominic Academy, are partnered with Notre Dame in a movement to transform the culture of education and youth sports and better fulfill our educational mission by fostering youth development through school and sports. As a Catholic school, we expect that our athletic programs will maintain a strong Christian focus. We all know this isn’t always easy during the heat of competition, but the PLC program is our guide to help us keep the character of our actions always at the forefront.

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