Vatican Seminar on Coaches: Educators of People

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SportsLeader Co-Founder Paul Passafiume recently spoke at the International Study Seminar on the topic: "Coaches: Educators of People," organized by the "Church and Sport" Office of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, taking place in Rome, Italy May 14-15.

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Paul Passafiume presenting at the Vatican.


The title of his talk was "Forming Coaches".

Here is an excerpt which he shared with 80 leaders from 5 continents. In attendance were professional athletes from MLB, NFL, Champions League Soccer and many others.

SportsLeader trains coaches to manage their time with exquisite dedication so as to be able to mentor their athletes. We have seen marvelous transformations in so many lives through this concentrated effort of coaches spending quality time listening to their players. Trust is built up, which enables many avenues for encouraging habits.

This mentoring takes on an even more essential role when our athletes come from broken homes where one or both of the parents are no longer in the lives of our young people. The coach can truly be a life-saver in these cases. This illustrates the necessity to intentionally form and train our coaches even more.


At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis welcomed some of the Harlem Globetrotters, who were visiting Rome while on tour. On the sunny Wednesday morning, the Pope paused to speak with the famous basketballers, and even received a lesson on how to balance a spinning ball on his fingertip, to the intense amusement of the crowd. Pope Francis is a sports lover, and though his first love is soccer, he also has a place in his heart for basketball. The team gave the Pope a blue Globetrotters jersey with the number 90 and his name, “Pope Francis,” in a frame.


Pope Francis addressed all of the participants in a message he sent to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, His Excellency Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko. Here is an excerpt:

The presence of a good coach-educator is revealed providentially especially in the years of adolescence and early youth, when the personality is in full development and in search of models of reference and identification; when the need is keenly perceived of appreciation and esteem on the part not only of contemporaries but also of adults; when the danger is more real of being lost behind bad examples and in the search for false happiness. In this delicate phase of life, the responsibility of a coach is great, who often has the privilege of spending many hours a week with young people and of having great influence on them by his conduct and personality. The influence of an educator, especially for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says. Therefore, how important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged!

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His Excellency Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko with Paul Passafiume.


In Cardinal Rylko's closing homily he said:

"Coaches must be both teachers and witnesses for young people who are entrusted to their care. They are witnesses and educators who help the people entrusted to them to grow, not only in the skills of a given sport at competitive level, but also and especially in humanity. It is not enough to produce 'one-dimensional' champions or 'human machines' who can win titles and medals. We must never lose sight of the fact that behind each young athlete there are men and women with problems, concerns and fragility. Sport in its various disciplines is a school that is important in conveying so many human virtues. It teaches us to be demanding on ourselves, to set high targets to be achieved, to be able to challenge ourselves and our limits. Sport keeps us from the temptation of giving in to comfortable mediocrity that is always lurking around. Let us not forget that Saint Paul compares the Christian life to a race. It is the passionate race of one who is not content to win a fleeting accolade (as in sports competitions), but the prize of eternal life.

"Coaching is not a job like others. Rather, it is a real mission, that of educating, training and helping people to grow in every way including the transcendent. It is a mission that often requires the courage to go against the dominant culture of our time.

"The sports world today more than ever needs coaches like this."

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Paul Passafiume with Santiago Perez, Head of Church and Sport Section in the Pontifical Council for the Laity.


Cardinal George Pell is the current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Vatican.

He personally has coached rugby, cricket, soccer and rowing- huge fan of sport.

His points were as follows:

▪ Sport is "fruit" of personal freedom
▪ Sport is an activity, when handled properly, that should "reveal" the true human person and is an activity that is blessed by God.
▪ Self confidence comes from sport which is very important element
▪ Book of Genesis tell us that we have to make it through the sweat of our brow- sport helps with this in the modern culture.
▪ Team sports, when done properly, are a significant opportunity for moral development because they discourage selfishness and foster loyalty.
▪ Every young person has to be taught how to properly compete.
▪ Group loyalties to teams (fans) is a very good thing for society and much better than war. On international level, also good thing.
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Cardinal George Pell with Paul Passafiume


So in a nutshell, Coaches, your mission is great and of utmost importance in our world today.

Thank you for everything you do to serve our young people and build the leaders of our society.

We need you!

Virtue = Strength, Lou Judd 
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