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Building All-star Teams and Authentic Men
70 coaches gathered at the Chicago Bears training complex to learn about the SportsLeader program.

Chicago bears
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.

He read a letter to the coaches, encouraging them to embrace
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.
SportsLeaders as an investment in the long-term future of their athletes and of the entire Chicago community.

"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.

Teaching boys 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.

For 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
Paul Passafiume
Coach Paul Passafiume speaks to the coaches about SportsLeader's impact.
of the SportsLeader program, also spoke at the event.

Based 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 years.

To find out more about how SportsLeader equips coaches, athletes, and parents for a winning season, visit the web site at



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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