|The St Aloysius team, beaming after their come-from-behind victory.|
July 25, 2008. Louisville, KY. St Aloysius Catholic School’s football
team had never won a championship in the six years
of its existence. For years, the little team had been
more of a participant than a serious competitor in archdiocesan
football matches. But this year, Coach Scott Berger decided to
implement the SportsLeader program, which teaches athletes about virtue
and willpower as well as game strategies.
payoff was immediate and dramatic.
The boys faced
their first major challenge in the Trinity High School 7-on-7
Tournament on Saturday, July 19. The tournament pitted 9 teams
against each other in a series of games lasting from
9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Each team had only 7
players on the field at a time, so as to
encourage passing and teamwork. In other words, there was nowhere
to hide: each team member had to give his best
all of the time in order to stay ahead.
make matters even tougher, the boys played in 95 degree
heat—which reached up to 105 degrees on the playing field
The first game was a close call.
The boys, four 6th graders and six 5th graders, fought
for their victory against teams of larger opponents mainly made
up of 6th graders. They fought for every touchdown, barely
outrunning the larger boys. And much to their surprise, they
won and ended up being the number one seed.
only the beginning. Game after game, their momentum increased.
team went from field to field during the competition, other
coaches looked somewhat surprised at the underdog team’s sudden show
of strength. Coach Berger said, “We would be talking and
there would be a 3 or 4 second pause. Then
they would ask, ‘What are you doing over there?’”
doing SportsLeader, and its particular coaching style came into
play just when the boys needed it most.
“Coach, my feet
It was the last game of the match, and
the boys were exhausted. The heat and the constant exertion
of hour-long games had been taking its toll. It was
4:00 in the afternoon and they were at the halftime
mark in their last game. If they won this game,
they would win the championship. But it was no easy
“Coach, my feet are burning,” said one of the players.
The boys looked wiped out. It had been a long,
It was then that Coach Berger turned on the
SportsLeader approach. Right there at halftime, he started telling the
boys about the importance of using their willpower to overcome
“If you use your willpower and have the courage
to go out there and compete, anything can happen,” he
told them. He encouraged them to tackle the odds with
daring and bravery, to believe and to give their best.
Then they knelt down in prayer, asking God the Father
and their school’s patron, St Aloysius, to help them through
the second half. They prayed to play as well as
they could, and to accept the outcome. Then they returned
to the game.
An Astounding Performance
The team they were playing against was physically stronger,
older, bigger in size. The little 5th graders were up
against a big challenge. But, to Coach Berger’s astonishment, they
began to outrun the other team, showing more fighting spirit
and tenacity than anyone else on the field.
was overwhelmed by the way they played that last game,
because we played in the heat of the day. Our
kids did not give up a score in the last
3 games. None of the other teams had even a
touchdown in the last 3 games. In the second half,
we scored 16 unanswered points and they didn’t score at
all,” said Coach Berger.
This is unheard of
in a 7-on-7 match. But it happened.
“I could tell
there was something else at work that day, something more
than my coaching or anyone else’s input,” said Coach Berger.
“It was a testament to their will and to their
hanging in there. They were trying to do something that
was above them,” he said. “And in fact, the 5th
graders did the most to win the game.”
After their victory in that last, grueling game, the boys
received their championship trophy with elation. They knew they had
earned it. “The boys were jumping around, so happy. They
told me, ‘Coach, this is the first trophy we’ve ever
gotten in football.’”
The tide had turned, and a SportsLeader lesson had proven its power.
“You have to have the
will to win, the will to take on a difficult
situation and make it work,” said Coach Berger.
is a lesson for life.
To read more about SportsLeader’s positive
impact on athletes, coaches, and families, click here.