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From the 66th floor of the Willis Tower, it’s easier to see the big picture, and the Positive Coaching Alliance provided an important one June 16 at its Coffee with Coaches Breakfast, a benefit for PCA’s Chicago chapter.
PCA Founder/CEO Jim Thompson gave an overview of his organization’s past, present and future in conversation with emcee Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network. Revsine then guided Northwestern University head football coach Pat Fitzgerald, NU head basketball coach Chris Collins, DePaul University head women’s soccer coach Erin Chastain and University of Notre Dame head basketball coach Mike Brey through a discussion that underscored the importance of the PCA’s work to make sports a character-building experience for young people.
The coaches emphasized the crucial role coaches and parents must play in serving as good role models and making sports fun.
“The young kids are watching; we have to set a positive example,” said Collins, like Chastain and Fitzgerald a member of the PCA National Advisory Board. “It’s an unbelievable responsibility we all carry as coaches, but one we all love.”
Chastain described an “entitlement” culture that too often pervades youth sports, “where something doesn’t go well – ‘Let’s look for another team.’ “
She stressed that parents have to be realistic with their young athletes.
“What we need to praise is effort and [realize] that your child has a lot of room to grow and get better,” she said. “You can be positive about it but not entitlement. It’s a battle.”
Brey urged parents to be a “confidence-giver” to their athletes and let coaches coach. “Can you be secure enough to be hands-off?” he asked.
With three young sons, Fitzgerald is gaining a new perspective as a sports parent. Like any good coach would, he is focusing on the basics to help his boys “just enjoy it and become a better person through sports.”
“My wife and I are teaching the kids to say please and thank you to their coaches, help the coach clean up … learn what it means to be a teammate,” he said. “That’s what is important to us right now.”
Campus Insiders catches up with Pat Fitzgerald at PCA-Chicago's Coffee with Coaches
As a one-time youth-level and high school coach in California, Thompson had not seen enough of those kinds of positive attitudes, so in 1998 he established PCA as a non-profit organization aimed at developing better athletes and people through their sports experiences.
Thompson told Revsine that PCA is tapping the knowledge of prominent sports psychologists and coaches to develop “cutting edge” methods to reach that goal.
“There is no better place to build character,” he said of sports. “Every game and practice is a teachable moment.”
PCA has grown to 12 chapters nationwide, including Chicago’s, which was launched in 2010. Thompson sketched out a five-year plan in which the alliance would expand to 26 chapters and reach half the 40 million youth sports participants in the United States.
“We will change the culture of a major institution in this country,” he vowed.
This was the Chicago debut for PCA’s “Coffee with Coaches” event, which took place at the Metropolitan Club. The audience of about 160 people was a mix of PCA supporters as well as PCA partner organizations, all of which have an interest in improving the culture of youth and high school sports.
Opening and closing remarks came from, respectively, PCA-Chicago Executive Director Jason Sacks and Chicago Board member Tracey Benford, managing director of the Goldman Sachs Chicago office.
Recap written by retired Chicago Tribune columnist Barry Temkin.
Members of the PCA-Chicago Chapter Board with the Coffee with Coaches panelists.