New App to Help Young Athletes with Character Building

By Peter Schwartz | Posted 2/16/2021

One of the great lessons that a young athlete in any sport including football can learn is how to show strong character and how to make changes that will help him or her both on and off the field. A lot of times great character is something that can be inherited from parents or, perhaps, it’s something that a young athlete can learn from a coach. Sometimes those lessons can be learned from technology.

Champion Conduct is a first of its kind program that prepares competitors to be the best they can be in life as well as playing the sport that they love. The mobile app launched this week and it will feature videos of athletes sharing their thoughts on social issues, real-life challenges, and charitable activities.

“I’ve actually been working on this for almost seven years,” said Champion Conduct founder Kathleen Neville, a published author and longtime consultant for the National Football League.  

“I worked with different youth organizations just to see if it was attractive to them at all. Kids are a harder audience, but they are the audience. I eventually determined that a mobile app with easy access as kind of a mentor in their pocket at all times was the right application and the right platform.”

Neville created the NFL’s first dedicated workplace guidelines on conduct and sexual harassment. She is a global authority on sexual harassment, gender equality, discrimination, and conduct. With the NFL, Neville has worked closely with former All-Pro cornerback Troy Vincent who is now the NFL’s Executive Vice-President of Football Operations.  

Vincent is among many athletes, legends, gold-medal Olympians, Hall of Famers, executives, coaches, topic experts and survivors of misconduct who are contributing to the project.

“I’ve seen it all as a player, executive and advocate,” said Vincent. “Firsthand, I have watched others come to grips with the consequences of their actions. Being part of this project allows me to give back not only to those in sports, but also to youth in communities across the country.”

Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Mark Bruener is also involved with the project. A first-round pick in 1995, Bruener is now a scout and a member of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee.

The content and technology for Champion Conduct is being developed through a partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology’s MAGIC Spell Studios, a research and production hub that encourages students from the university’s School of Film and Animation programs.

Starting in late 2021, high school athletic departments, along with NCAA programs, professional franchises, and coaches from all levels will be able to license or subscribe to Champion Conduct.   

The app will include features like, “The Locker Room.” It will be firsthand accounts from those who have been subjected to harmful or hateful conduct. 

“The Film Room” will feature coachable moments from former and active players regarding off-field challenges, game-changing personal victories and the real-life consequences of poor decisions and addition. 

“The Game Room” is where athletes will be able to watch episodes about media training, public speaking, social media presence, leadership and brand promotion.

“The Community Room” will be geared to the impact of giving back with lessons from successful philanthropic athletes.   

Given everything that’s going on the world right now, the timing of a program like this couldn’t be better.  

“I really came up with the idea when I saw that there was this really glaring and crying need for mentorship on what I call coachable moments,” said Neville. “There is value of a former player or a coach being able to say in this format, which is episodic, talking very frank about here’s what know, here’s what I learned, here’s the decision that I made that wasn’t a good one, and here’s a decision I made that was a good one.”

Champion Conduct will issue a certification to graduates of the program.  Each student will have to participate in a program-approved nonprofit organization for at least one year to be considered for graduation. The program will provide these young athletes with life-skill tools that are essential in building a strong reputation for not just sports but life in general.

And just think about what has happened during the coronavirus pandemic with some athletes around the country not being able to play the sport that they live, especially football, for an extended period of time. Along with the social justice issues and the politics that have caused a divide in our country, this has been a challenging time for young athletes when it comes to mental health. There’s a lot going on between school, sports, the community, and trying to cope with so many other aspects of life as we head towards the “new normal”.

From a sports perspective and also from a life perspective, a program like this could be a game-changer for many young athletes.

“That is exactly why it’s needed at this time,” said Neville. “That’s where the urgency has come for me that knowing all that is in front of them from the racial issues and there’s still a ton of gender issues and then there’s social media especially in the colleges. They are using social media, but they don’t know exactly where the lines are and how do they make that determination.”  

These days, there is a lot of the plates of so many student-athletes across the country. The Champion Conduct program is launching at a very important time as it will be a tool that can certainly help those who may some guidance in life lessons from those who have the experiences to share.  For more information on the program, please visit their website here.

Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio in New York.  His son Bradley is a freshman in high school and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program while his younger son Jared enjoys playing flag football.   Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a high school or flag football field.