Play Like A Champion: Following the Vatican’s Lead to Elevate the Culture of American Sport

The following blog was contributed by Kristin Komyatte Sheehan, Program Director, Pete Piscitello, Manager of Outreach and Operation Support, and Dr. Clark Power, Founder & Director of Play Like a Champion Today in Notre Dame, Indiana.

In the midst of an ordinary spring, those of us involved in youth and high school sports would be excited for the beginning of our children’s spring sports season. In our imagination, we can still hear the crack of the baseball bat, the swish of a lacrosse stick flinging a ball, and the chatter of teammates cheering from a bench. In a perfect world, our children would still be running, laughing and playing together. In light of COVID-19, our new reality is something altogether different, one that none of us would have ever conceived.

While our fields and stadiums are quiet, we do not have to break completely from sports. We are thrilled to announce the release of a new book that can provide a sport “fix” while the playing fields await our return. Play Like a Champion: Following the Vatican’s Lead to Elevate the Culture of American Sport provides a “Call to Action” for our American Church, with details on how to elevate the culture of Catholic-sponsored sports programs and increase the availability of sports for children across our country.

The book exists to invoke action, yet we can use this “pause” in play as an opportunity to evaluate and imagine how we can improve sports for children; both individually and collectively, in our own community as well as across our country. Pope Francis has called on the faithful during this time to consider “what is necessary from what is not” while asking us to “rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us” (Urbi et Orbi, March 27, 2020). This book presents a vision for realizing the Pope’s call in the context of sports. Gaining inspiration from the Vatican’s 2018 release of Giving the Best of Yourself: a Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person, the book provides commentary on the Church’s unique calling in sports while inviting the reader to reflect on how he or she can apply concepts within teams and organizations.

Individual chapters discuss the theology and value of Play; how coaches and athletes can build the virtues of a Champion; the role of Coaching as Ministry; the spirituality of sports; how to build positive partnerships with sport parents; and a Pastoral Action Plan for implementing the Vatican’s vision of a thriving sport culture in your own diocese. Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the overall value of sport in supporting the integral development of people and how sports can be, as Pope Francis suggests, “an instrument of encounter, formation, mission and sanctification” (Pope Francis Letter on Giving the Best of Yourself, June 1, 2018).

Additionally, this book contains a number of exciting, tangible resources that coaches, parents and administrators can use to encourage character development and faith formation through sports. These include:

  • A “10 Commandments for Sport Parents”
  • Codes of Conduct for Sports Parents, Coaches, Athletes, Officials
  • A Guide to “Leading Moral Discussions with your Team”
  • Sport-themed Stations of the Cross
  • Mysteries of the Rosary with Reflections for Athletes and Teams
  • A Novena to St. Sebastian, the Patron Saint of Athletes & Sports
  • Sport Prayers: Categorized by Topic for Athletes, Teams, Coaches and Parents
  • The 5 Minute Game Plan, a series of lesson plans for practices based on age-appropriate catechesis and prayer.

This book is an invitation to all those who believe in the power of sport to serve the human person. To our bishops and priests, coaches at youth, high school and collegiate levels, to sport parents, athletic directors, school administrators and administrators of sports leagues… to athletes and all sport enthusiasts. As we weather this current storm of COVID-19 together and await a return to the parishes, schools and athletic fields that bring us closer to God, may we work diligently to assure that the world of sports to which we return echoes the call of Pope Francis to “revive our Easter faith.” We invite you to order a copy of this book today and join us in a national discussion on how we can elevate the culture of sports, creating an environment in which young athletes can grow and develop physically, mentally and spiritually.