Today, the sports pages are filled with stories about fighting spectators, over-zealous parents, spousal abuse, drug abuse, self-entitled athletes and mercenary coaches who chase the highest contract. In response, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is piloting a program which focuses on character in order to reclaim the true spirit of the game.
Possibly the NAIA's single most important statement ever, it has been appropriately named Champions of Character. Although innate to its mission, the program's importance lies not only in its emphasis on value and character, but also in the extent of its reach. Obviously, the Champions of Character initiative will impact the NAIA institutions, but ultimately it will affect youth around the country.
The Champions of Character initiative is based on five core values: respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship. Through its tradition of using sports informally as a vehicle of character development, the NAIA supports awareness, education and community involvement to promote character and integrity at every level of competition. Student-athletes, coaches, administrators and spectators are challenged to take responsibility for their behavior both on and off the court. Our emphasis is on hiring and training coaches who can model and teach character as well as physical skills. We want coaches with the courage and ability to hold their athletes to "standards higher than victory". Our desire is to recruit, retain and graduate young people who can demonstrate the five core values of Champions of Character. As well as athletes who want to play with and compete against other athletes of character and who are striving to live a life of integrity.
Already underway on many of the NAIA's 300 plus campuses, the community outreach portion of the program will be further developed in high school and youth organizations around the country. The epicenter of the program will be the Character in Sports Center in the new NAIA headquarters in Kansas City, MO. Our goal is to have it become a national model in youth sports character development.
The NAIA is committed to making a difference through the Champions of Character initiative. We are proud to be able to offer an alternative direction in the world of sport. We hope to be so different that it will be both noticeable and appealing. We encourage everyone involved with athletics at any level to stand with the NAIA and the Champions of Character initiative, do not stay on the sidelines, step off the accepted path, step away from the crowd and join us for this change in the culture of sport.
Cornerstone University Selected as Program Center
In October 2004 the NAIA informed Cornerstone University that they have been selected to help launch the next phase of the Champions of Character initiative. The NAIA will begin partnering with institutional leaders to pilot Champions of Character Program Centers on 12 campuses during the 2004-2005 academic year. Each pilot Program Center will participate in a training conference to develop program leaders and lead instructors.
In addition, pilot Program Centers will develop community outreach activities that integrate with existing institutional initiatives and fit the local community's specific needs. In developing local outreach efforts, each Program Center will have at its disposal a range of educational publications, programs and resources available from the NAIA national office.
Campus-based Champions of Character Program Centers will:
1. Promote meaningful change in the culture of sport among NAIA member institutions through a truly unique collegiate sports model based on sport ethics and core values.
2. Provide a workable mechanism to more fully implement the Champions of Character initiative.
3. Provide significant outreach opportunities for NAIA institutions, especially to prospective students.
Program Centers will not be selected at random. Only institutions that fully embrace the Champions of Character initiative will be accredited. To qualify as an accredited program center, institutions must certify a campus Champions of Character instructor, involve head coaches and student-athletes in educational programs and engage selected student-athletes and others in local community outreach to 2,500 coaches, youth participants and parents in the surrounding community annually. Trained campus instructors will begin programming from their respective campus-based Program Centers by the fall of 2005.
Mike Riemersma, Cornerstone University's Champions of Character Director, commented on the latest news. "I'm excited that the NAIA national office selected us as a Program Center. I believe in this program and I am looking forward to being certified as a lead instructor. Being the only Program Center in the Midwest is a great opportunity for our institution to impact lives not only in the Grand Rapids area but our entire region."