Congress Keynote: Hockey legend Pat LaFontaine

Congress Keynote: Hockey legend Pat LaFontaine


By Greg Bach

Pat LaFontaine, one of the greatest players in NHL history, cherishes the life skills and lessons he accumulated during his youth sports days growing up in Michigan.

And the NHL Hall of Famer – he played 15 seasons, scored 468 goals and had 1,013 points – is as passionate as they come about helping today’s youth gain all the benefits that accompany participating in sports.

“There’s such a massive value in playing sports and it’s in the character development and the life skills that we learn,” says LaFontaine, who will deliver a must-see keynote address to kick off the 18th annual Youth Sports Congress on Nov. 13 in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. “I don’t think you can have a meaningful, successful and well-rounded life if you don’t have those values and skills to apply.”

LaFontaine is the Vice President of Hockey Development for the NHL, and in 2017 was recognized as one of the 100 Greatest Players in NHL history.

“Whether it was perseverance, teamwork, leadership, discipline, sacrifice or learning how to handle winning and losing, there’s not a day that goes by where those traits, those tools, those skills and those life lessons don’t come into play,” he says. “To me the greatest value of sports is the life skills and character development that you learn that live on long after the game is over.”

Unfortunately, the youth sports landscape is inundated with children who are bailing on sports for a variety of reasons, including because of negative experiences that have turned them off from participating.

“We’re losing so many kids at a young age who are leaving sports, so we have to really look at those issues and find solutions,” LaFontaine says. “So there are a lot of things that I look forward to speaking about, but overall it’s the value of what sports really brings and does that narrative have to shift?”

Great Sessions, Great Speakers

LaFontaine’s keynote leads off a special evening, which includes recognizing the winners of the prestigious Excellence in Youth Sports Award as well as honoring the NAYS Volunteer Coach of the Year and the NAYS Parent of the Year. A fun-filled reception follows the award ceremony.

The Congress, the signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, runs Nov. 13-16 in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show.

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz delivers the first of two Athletic Business keynotes. His session, Game Plan for Success, will focus on overcoming seemingly impossible challenges by setting your own goals and working to achieve them. Among his many accomplishments, Holtz is the only coach in the history of college football to take six different teams to a bowl game. The author of three New York Times best-selling books, his Three Rules for Living a Good Life: A Game Plan for After Graduation, was released earlier this year.   

Prior to Holtz’s keynote on Nov. 14, the first full day of the Congress begins with a panel session on Youth Sports Development. Clay Walker, executive director of the National Fitness Foundation, will moderate the session that will include representatives from an array of youth sports organizations.

Tami Matheny, owner of Refuse2LoseCoaching and author of The Confident Athlete and The Confidence Journal, follows with a session focused on building one’s confidence and helping instill it in others.

A session on building mental skills wraps up the afternoon, led by Dr. Daniel Wann, a professor of psychology at Murray State University; and Dr. Julie Partridge, a professor of sport and exercise psychology at Southern Illinois University.


A session examining the impact technology has on learning and development begins the day, led by John Kriger, adjunct faculty at the Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies, and School of Social Work Office of Continuing Education. He’s also the author of Turned On & Tuned Out, A Guide to Understanding and Managing Tech Dependence.

Steven Smith, co-founder and president of Guardian Defense, will present a session on planning and responding when terror strikes; and Katie Scott, Senior Special Projects Coordinator for the National Athletic Trainers Association, will deliver a presentation on the best practices for handling emergency situations in youth sports.

The day also features another outstanding Athletic Business keynote from Bonnie St. John, a Paralympic skiing medalist, Rhodes Scholar, Fortune 500 Business Consultant and best-selling author. Her session, Normal is Overrated – Aim Higher!, encourages audiences to strive for extraordinary results.


The Congress wraps up with an interactive roundtable on youth sports, exploring the benchmark standards that programs should be focused on. Attendees will have the chance to pose questions and share success stories.  

Registration is under way for this incredible four-day training that enables youth sports professionals to participate in the Congress and AB Show. For those attendees who have yet to earn their Certified Youth Sports Administrator credential a special Onsite Academy for Youth Sports Administrators is simultaneously scheduled so participants can attend everything during their time in Orlando.

Youth Sports Congress Pat LaFontaine Sports Participation Life Lessons Life Skills

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