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Nonprofit started by ND professor and local coach teaches character education

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Well, by we should all be familiar with the ‘Play like a Champion’ sign that sits at the base of the Notre Dame locker room.

But what you may not know is that born from message is an organization that was started by a Notre Dame professor who wants to spread character education through sports.

As a Notre Dame professor, Clark Power is well aware of winning traditions.

But 13 years ago, the part time coach noticed a problem he couldn’t ignore.

“Some teams cut, some teams left kids on the bench. Even on the youth level that is below high school. And I couldn’t understand that. This is a time where all kids should learn and all kids should have fun playing the game,” said Power.

So Power used the resources available to him and started the Play like a Champion Today educational series.

The research based program, which started in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, is now a nonprofit initiative that focuses on fostering moral and spiritual development through sports -- mainly by way of educating coaches, teachers, parents and players through curriculum.

At first power partnered with youth sports groups and local high schools.

The cost breaks down to only $25 per coach.

That partnership started a decade ago, reaching out to diocese and schools in the South Bend and Mishawaka area. One of the first to do it was the head coach of the Marian Knights, Coach Reggie Glon.

“Notre Dame is part of the Dioceses and we have similar philosophies of education. It reinforced what we were already doing. And it was a way of getting it out to the grade schools, out to the parents and getting it out to the kids,” Reggie Glon, Marian Football Head Coach

Glon, who was one of the key players to bring the curriculum to Marian a decade ago, stresses the importance of sharing these ideals with young athletes.

“Starting it out at the youth level, working through the elementary schools, it’s the only way to build a great culture. Get things that are important for our society and our high school athletes,” said Glon.

Through his research, power has seen challenges one of which is parents who see youth sports as an investment.

Ryan Dayntee is the Dean of Students at Marian High School.

“Our mission here at Marian is excellence. So winning is a part of it. We want our teams to be successful. That’s a message we can share with parents who may see it from that perspective of we just want to win. That’s what we are striving for, but we are also striving for doing it in the context of the church and the context of the Marian family,” said Dayntee.

Pairing winning values with a winning tradition, Play like a Champion Today is now spreading globally and reaching thousands of coaches and athletes.

“If your child ends up being so good that the child can play at a highly competitive level and get a scholarship or play professionally, great. Most children will never get there and that shouldn’t be your primary expectation. That should be a bonus. If your kids have the gifts and works hard, then great. For most kids, it’s a way to have fun, stay fit and develop values,” said Power.

The next step for power and his team is sitting down with the South Bend School Cooperation and Dr. Kenneth spells to further discuss brining the curriculum to inner city schools and making it work for schools who may not be able to afford the program.

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