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Challenger Sports embraces character

September 21, 2012

by Maegan Mathiasmeier, NAIA National Office intern

Integrity. Respect. Responsibility. Sportsmanship. Servant Leadership. These five values drive Challenger Sports soccer camps.

Headquarted in Lenexa, KS, Challenger Sports runs more than 3,500 British Soccer Camps for 120,000 boys and girls in the U.S. and Canada and coaches 50,000 players in year-round club trainer programs. Challenger Sports uses the NAIA Champions of Character program as an integral part of its youth soccer camps and academies.

Challenger Sports trains all of its 50 fulltime directors in Champions of Character program, and instruction is provided for all of the organization's 1,000 coaches during a three-day training session in the United Kingdom. According Peter Arch, vice president of Challenger Sports, Champions of Character curriculum is included in coaches' notebooks, and training includes role-playing to learn how to effectively integrate the character lessons into their camps.  We let our coaches know that this part of our program leaves a very powerful impression on parents, Arch said.  "We receive a lot of email regarding this element of our program."

Upon arrival to Challenger Sports camps, campers receive a welcome booklet, which summarizes the Champions of Character program and includes a message from Challenger Sports about its dedication to the program.

In addition to focusing on the skills and drills of soccer, Challenger Sports soccer camps enhance campers' abilities and help them make positive choices in regards to efforts and behaviors. Each day, the campers and coaches discuss different ways that campers can be "Champions of Character."

By the end of the week, not only do campers improve their dribbling, shooting, passing and heading skills, but they also understand the meaning of the five core values. Campers receive fold out posters marking their achievements, Champions of Character values, comments from their coaches, and ways to maintain a healthy diet.

"We hope that we have been the first step in their education process. The next time someone talks about one of these values, we hope that they remember what one of our coaches told them in camp," said Arch.

Working with young campers means translating the messages into age-appropriate examples and using those examples throughout the camp experience.  For instance, Arch explained that if a camper is talking when he or she should be listening, the Challenger coach would explain that he or she should respect the person who is speaking. If campers forget their soccer ball, a coach explains the importance of responsibility.

Arch said, "Incorporate Champions of Character into as many media as possible. Do not just print it on a certificate and hope that the kids understand it. It requires discussion and specific real life examples and must be repeatedly enforced."

Campers show integrity by being honest, reliable, always on time and work hard at every practice and game.  Campers learn respect to the game by listening to coaches and go without questioning the referee. Campers learn responsibility by being accountable for their own actions on and off the field. Campers improve their sportsmanship by following rules and playing fair and become a servant leader by putting the team first in all decisions.

Learn ways to include Champions of Character into your sports program by checking out the How to Get Started section or contacting the Champions of Character staff. Join Challenger Sports and the NAIA in delivering the message about character-driven athletics to your organization.