The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



New scholarship honors athleticism, integrity

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, November 21, 2011

Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today (PLC) program will expand its scholarships that honor young athletes for their moral integrity instead of sheer athletic ability, program director Kristin Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the program has partnered with the Trusted Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization in Oregon, to create 12 new scholarships this year.

The PLC program, an initiative developed through the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), strives to educate youth and high school coaches nationally to develop character and integrity in athletes physically, emotionally, morally and spiritually.

The Inspireum Soccer Awards, initiated this year, will give $25,000 in academic scholarships to 12 high school soccer players who best exemplify a combination of athletic ability, courage and personal character.

Sheehan said the Soccer Awards would give more young female athletes a chance to be recognized.

“This award certainly opens the field for young women to be acknowledged for character this year,” she said.

Sheehan said the Soccer Awards program is one of two awards programs sponsored by PLC and the Trusted Sports Foundation. The second program, the High School Football Rudy Awards, and the Soccer Awards honor young athletes for their courage in the face of difficult circumstances.

“Very often that award would exemplify someone beating the odds, a situation when an athlete had [faced] adversity in his or her life and continues to flourish in [his or her] character,” Sheehan said. “Really, these kids are heroes.”

Sheehan said so much emphasis is placed on physical performance today that young athletes can easily lose sight of how important personal character is to sports.

“In a world where we sometimes have negative examples of sports figures who are excellent at what they do physically, they aren’t [necessarily] the best [role models,]” she said.

The High School Football Rudy Awards program presents $25,000 in academic scholarships annually to 12 young football players recognized for a commitment to excellence as well as demonstrated personal character.

The awards are based on the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, known for his determination to make the Notre Dame football team as shown in the film, “Rudy.”

“They are awarded to a high school student who most exemplifies the ‘Rudy’ spirit,” Sheehan said. “That is integrity … perseverance, persistence, hard work ⎯ all those virtues and values that we would applaud from a young athlete.”

Sheehan said PLC began its partnership with the Trusted Sports Foundation back in 2008 after Ruettiger, who is involved with the charity, came to speak at PLC’s annual sports leadership conference.

Any student across the nation can be considered for the awards, Sheehan said.

“What we talk about is how to create champions from every child,” Sheehan said. “The character traits that we would focus on would be hard work, determination, persistence, fortitude, respect, justice, sportsmanship, integrity, care for others and passion.”

Sheehan said a champion isn’t always the star player on the team, but a person of both athletic excellence and character.

“What this award really celebrates is … character and integrity through sports,” she said.