CYO seminar to focus on sportsmanship
by Katie Hyde
Special to the Leaven
Kansas City, Kan. — Any fan of grade school sports has seen it.
Whether they’re cheering from the bleachers of a fifth-grade football game, pacing courtside during the basketball championships, or leaping to spike in a volleyball tournament, a parent, a coach or a player gets a little . . . passionate.
Often, according to Overland Park’s Church of the Ascension CYO football coach Jim Casey, these people sometimes forget one fact: While it is a competition, it is a game.
To remind CYO parents and coaches of this, the archdiocese will introduce Play Like a Champion Today (PLC), a mandatory seminar to be held in August for all CYO parents and coaches, focusing on the similarity between coaching and ministry. All coaches of fall sports and all parents with children participating in fall sports are required to attend one of the four sessions.
“We have to remember how we treat others and how we want to be treated,” said Casey. “The program raises awareness here that we haven’t had before.”
At the programs, which will be held at the archdiocese’s Catholic high schools, parents will also learn how to effectively communicate with coaches and work together to put their children in the best environment for success.
“This is a very Catholic-based program,” said Peter Piscitello, executive director of CYO for the archdiocese. “It’s important we shape our coaches in the Catholic mold, because that’s what we’re all about.”
Casey Lally, both a CYO coach and athletic director at Resurrection Catholic School in Kansas City, Kan., agrees.
“Play Like A Champion hits today’s problems head on and doesn’t shy away from them,” said Lally. “It reminds us why our children are in sports — not to become professional athletes, but to help our children learn teamwork, sportsmanship and, of course, sport-specific skills, while keeping our faith.”
Inspired by the slogan in the University of Notre Dame locker room, PLC has grown since its introduction in 2006 to encompass 30 dioceses, including 19 diocesan or citywide leagues. According to the program’s Web site: “Over 15,000 coaches and 3,000 parents have attended PLC workshops impacting the lives of over 500,000 young athletes.” Next year, those numbers will also include 5,500 CYO athletes from parts of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
The program’s research on player, coach and fan behavior at youth sporting events documented “unacceptable” levels of unsportsmanlike and aggressive behavior, according to a press release from the Catholic Youth Organization of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties. Notre Dame’s research indicates that, in many respects, Catholic programs are worse than secular athletic programs.
PLC hopes to change that.
Although Piscitello said there are sometimes difficulties when change occurs, he was surprised when he received only favorable responses from priests, principals and parents.
“It has been 100 percent positive,” said Piscitello. “I expected even a little kickback with change. You expect folks to grumble a little about change. But, every single person has been thrilled. People are very excited about it.”