Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is one of the bright spots in the world of sports. The non-profit organization, founded by current chief executive officer Jim Thompson, is focused on eliminating the “win-at-all-costs” mentality that too often permeates the youth sports environment. The result of this mindset is that for too many children what should be an opportunity for fun and personal growth turns into an experience filled with anxiety and frustration.

The foundation of PCA’s approach to youth sports is training “double-goal” coaches: coaches who effectively balance the goal of winning with the second (and more important goal in youth sports) of teaching life lessons, and building character and self-esteem. Thompson and his trainers focus on the “ELM Tree of Mastery” with coaches and young athletes. This tool helps young people realize that they control three key variables in sports: 1) Their level of Effort; 2) Whether they Learn from experiences; and 3) How they respond to Mistakes.

“The single most important thing we do is help coaches teach kids not to be afraid to make mistakes,” says Thompson.

PCA trainers also talk to coaches about the “magic ratio,” five positive statements for every one criticism. By doing this, coaches help boost players’ confidence and hence their performance. The magic ratio needs to be real. Coaches need to deliver honest praise, not false praise. And criticism needs to be delivered in a helpful way at the appropriate time.

“Screaming at a kid is not tough,” says Thompson. “That’s just a lack of impulse control.”

Think back upon your own experience in youth sports. Would you have liked to have played for a PCA coach? Would you like your son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter to play for a PCA-style coach today?

Here’s a great chance to improve the youth sports experience today: Donate to Positive Coaching Alliance by December 31, 2011 and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar by several prominent PCA supporters.

Your support can help a great organization make a big difference in the lives of young athletes across the country.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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