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A Winning Event: A Recap of Play Like a Champion's 2024 Sports Leadership Conference

Play Like a Champion hosted its 19th Annual Sports Leadership Conference, and it was an exhilarating three days! We kicked off on Wednesday with our pre-conference retreat at the Center for Social Concerns on Notre Dame’s campus. The retreat offered attendees the chance to meet other conference goers in a more intimate setting before the main event. 

This year's theme, Sacred Echoes, encouraged participants to reflect on their past and recognize their progress since beginning their coaching careers. We concluded the retreat on the Southside of South Bend, where a new baseball field is being constructed for local children. Matt Insley provided us with the background on how this project began and how the local community, especially local children, have been involved in its development. We closed out the retreat with a service project of planting trees at the renovated field and playing a pick-up wiffle ball game. 

The next two days consisted of fellowship and networking among individuals sharing the same goal: learning to become better coaches and mentors for our kids. Our speakers covered various topics, including the differences in coaching boys and girls, the importance of incorporating trauma-informed practices into coaching, and the need to be intentional

about meeting kids where they are. We also heard from current college athletes who shared their experiences growing up playing sports and how their coaches impacted their athletic and personal lives.  

This year, we had an unprecedented number of younger attendees. To feed them intellectually, we added a session specifically for them to talk and exchange ideas. This is the essence of our message: setting a positive example so the next generation has someone to look up to and model their practices after.


Attendees could choose between sessions in the afternoon, so each day concluded with a community meeting where participants shared what inspired them throughout the day, posed any questions they still had, and discussed how they planned to incorporate what they learned through action steps back at their home. This collaborative spirit truly encapsulated the essence of our conference, fostering a sense of unity, kinship and shared purpose among all participants working to make the world of youth sport more inclusive, accessible and developmentally focused. 

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