|The coaches arrive to Hallas Hall, the Chicago Bears training complex, named after the legendary “Papa Bear."|
March 12, 2009. On February 22, 2009, a total of
70 Chicago-area coaches and athletic directors from over 10 different
high schools and sports leagues gathered at the Chicago Bears
training complex for a SportsLeader “Coaches Kickoff” presentation. The
theme was “Building Better Men through Sports.”
The purpose of
the Coaches Kickoff event was to introduce SportsLeader to Chicago
coaches, with the goal of launching the program in 6
to 8 Chicago high schools this year.
The event began
with a welcome from Pat McCaskey, a co-owner of the
Chicago Bears and the Senior Director of Special Events. In
his talk, Pat talked about his grandfather, the legendary George
Halas, who founded the Chicago Bears in 1920, and reflected
on the importance of a values-based program like SportsLeader.
read a letter to the coaches, encouraging them to embrace
SportsLeaders as an investment in the long-term future of their
athletes and of the entire Chicago community.
|Virginia McCaskey (center) listens as her son Pat sings "God Bless the Coaches" to the tune of "God Bless America." Alongside are Fr Andre LaSana, LC, and Fr Jason Brooks, LC.|
"I have met with
representatives of SportsLeader, a leadership virtue program for existing sports
teams, and I would like you to consider participating. As
a coach, you are one of the most important, trusted, and
respected figures in your athletes´ lives. What SportsLeader provides is
an organized plan for getting the most out of your
athletes both on and off the field," he said.
what it means to be a man
The keynote speaker was
Joe Ehrmann, a retired all-pro NFL football player for the
Baltimore Colts, subject of Jeffrey Marx’s best-selling book The Season
of Life, and a high school football coach who has
led his team to 10 state championships.
From his own
experience, Joe commented that he sees virtue-based sports programs like
SportsLeader as part of the root solution in a society
that has undermined the concept of true masculinity by reducing
|Joe Ehrmann speaks about the importance of teaching virtue to athletes.|
it to athletic prowess, sexual conquest, and financial power.
generations of fatherless children who need role models for what
it means to be a real man, sports heroes tend
to fill in the vacuum.
In that context, a coach
who is equipped to teach virtue can reach the youth
in a way that a pastor, teacher, or parent cannot,
simply because he meets them on their personal field of
dreams. He, more than anyone, can teach boys that the
key to true masculinity is the strength of virtue, especially
the virtue of charity.
How SportsLeader changes lives
Paul Passafiume, a cofounder
|Coach Paul Passafiume speaks to the coaches about SportsLeader's impact.|
of the SportsLeader program, also spoke at the event.
in Louisville, Kentucky, Paul Passafiume is a youth football coach
who has led his team to 5 out of 6
city championships. He played on two state championship teams in
his own day on the field. Paul’s talk was full
of cases of real life differences that SportsLeader has brought
about in the lives of the youth.
One story was about
a gangly, awkward young fellow who showed up at football
practice one day. He took Coach Passafiume aside and explained
that he was the kind of guy who had been
harassed and hazed for most of his life because of
his awkward appearance. Three of the guys on the football
team had been the worst offenders until the year when
the SportsLeader program started.
“Something happened last year with the guys
on your team,” he said. “All of a sudden, the
three of them showed up and apologized to me and
told me how ashamed and sorry they were for what
they had done to me.”
“After that, they wouldn’t let anyone
else pick on me. They stood up for me,” said
the young man. Those three young men had learned their
lesson in charity, especially the point about how no one
should ever have to sit by himself or be trampled
underfoot by stronger kids.
“I don’t know anything about football,”
the young man told Coach Passafiume. “But if what you’re
doing can change those guys the way it did, I
want to be part of it.”
Through SportsLeader, charity was beginning
to work its magic.
Building for the future
Since it was
founded nationally for the first time in the fall of
2008, SportsLeader has served over 2,500 registered participants in Ohio,
Indiana, and Kentucky alone.
As the program expands to Chicago,
the goal is to reach 6-8 schools this year, a
dozen next year, and many more within the next five
To find out more about how SportsLeader equips coaches, athletes,
and parents for a winning season, visit the web site