Leading a movement to make character education the primary focus of youth sports - by creating Double-Goal Coaches who teach life lessons while striving to win, and Triple-Impact Competitors who make themselves, their teammates and the game better.
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Working against the dominant conception of sports as a sphere for flamboyant and ruthless competition, Jim Thompson reestablishes competitive athletics as a space in which all youth can acquire the skills and values they need for lasting success.
There is no national professional association for youth sports in America; no uniform standards or practices unite the country’s thousands of youth and school sports programs. Even those youth coaches who want to promote social values and self-mastery in their teams generally lack the training to effectively accomplish this goal.
Despite the well-documented health and social developmental benefits of organized sports, millions of young people in America have, by their 12th birthday, completely disengaged from them. In many cases, negative experiences drive young people away from sports they would otherwise enjoy. Their departure accounts for significant losses in physical health and emotional maturity. Beyond the benefits to lung capacity, heart health, and general strength, team sports can help children assess and improve their social competence through the feedback they receive from parents, coaches, and teammates. Exclusion and over-competition—prevalent in the current system of youth sports—denies these benefits to thousands of children.
Jim has enlisted high-profile professional coaches like Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Brown of the New York Knicks to be spokespersons for PCA, lending their name and credibility to its brand and advocating its ideas in public. Their endorsement is powerful; coming from Jim Thompson the notion that coaches should focus more on character than on winning is an interesting idea, and from Phil Jackson—who has led teams to nine NBA championships—is very compelling.
To build a groundswell for character education in youth sports, PCA has developed a distribution network of dynamic trainers who conduct live workshops throughout the United States. Offices have been established in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. Two national awards are given to outstanding coaches and organizations, the Double-Goal Coach Award and the Honoring the Game Award for youth sports organizations. With the long-term goal of training and certifying, Jim’s team of coaches and volunteers fan out across the country to recruit thousands of parents, coaches, and young people into the Positive Coach Alliance. PCA staff members train each new member about the techniques they need to push for inclusion and mutual respect in competition. Once trained, members are equipped with guidebooks, including exercises, lesson plans, and reference materials. They remain connected to the PCA via newsletters, refresher courses and members-only events. They have also begun to certify coaches who complete their courses. Hundreds of coaches gather to honor a select number among them each year with the National Youth Sports Award.
To date, the PCA has trained over 50,000 members in more than 1,000 workshops. Jim has forged partnerships with national youth sports organizations including U.S. Lacrosse, the Ice Skating Institute, American Youth Soccer Organization, U.S Club Soccer, and USA Rugby, along with 300 local youth sports organizations. Most importantly, PCA has influenced of thousands of youth coaches, who, thanks to its work, have more fun, win more games, and make ever bigger contributions to the lives of young athletes.
He became a coach, and sought out books to guide him in crafting strategies for positive coaching. Finding none, Jim eventually wrote the book that he wanted to read; titled Positive Coaching, the book has now sold thousands of copies worldwide. When he was nominated to a national task force on Building Character through Sports, he began to dream up strategies to craft large-scale connections between sports and core social values. To nurture these connections throughout the country, he founded the Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org) in 1998.