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Positive Coaching Alliance Brings the Power of Positive to the WAVE Leadership Program

By Michelle Netzloff-Luna
Cedar Street Times - June 22, 2018

The WAVE Program is all about creating a positive sports culture where kids love to play the game and find joy in learning and participating in sports. Executive Director Darryl Smith has taken this concept to a new level with the WAVE Leadership Program, and has partnered with the renown Positive Coaching Alliance to provide campers with hands on training on how to not only be successful on the field but more importantly how to be successful in life. Drawing on the pivotal book Elevating Your Game by PCA Founder Jim Thompson, campers grasp the core concepts of Mastery, Honoring the Game, Filling your Emotional Tank, and how to create a Development Zone environment where better athletes and better people are actualized. To help with his mission, Darryl has teamed up with Brian Watson, PCA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Executive Director. Brian has been with PCA for 8 years and helped launch PCA's Los Angeles and Portland chapters. He was recruited 3 years ago to the position of executive director of the SF Bay Chapter, a territory that encompasses eleven counties from Napa and Santa Rosa, to Livermore, down to King City and the Monterey area. Brian offered some insight into what PCA is all about, and a sneak peek into what campers will be learning at the Leadership Program.

"The Positive Coaching Alliance organization was founded 20 years ago in the Stanford Athletic Dept. by Jim Thompson, and has reached more than 14.2 million youths. PCA has taken research from sports psychology and positive youth development and has boiled it down into practical tools that can be used by coaches, parents, athletes and leaders.

There are 40 million kids who play youth and high school sports, but studies show that around the age of 13 about 70% drop out. The number one reason is that sports no longer become fun because of a culture that now tells kids "to win at all costs.” The culture is pervasive and has swept across the country...its coaches, parents and adults that are taking things way too serious, and that eliminates the fun and enjoyment the kids’ experience. PCA really wants to combat that "win at all costs” culture and replace it with the "development zone” culture, which still celebrates winning and competition, but that places greater focus on emphasizing the life lessons and helping kids have a positive character building experience. The development zone culture takes a systems approach that involves training and curriculum for every key member of the youth sports ecosystem: the coaches, parents, students and organizational leaders. The coaches training uses the model of the double goal coach meaning the first goal is striving to win, but the second and more important goal is teaching life lessons through sports. The parent training is called the second goal parent and encourages mom and dad to have a laser focus on the life lessons, and to leave the winning and competition up to the coaches and kids. Often times parents desperately desire to see their son or daughter have a terrific experience in sports, but there's not really a framework to help them do that. They wonder what is my role as a parent? When the game's over and we're in that car ride home, really the last thing the player wants to talk about is what went wrong in the game. But well-meaning parents are just itching to have that conversation. But that's not the right time for that. What kids want to hear from parents, really the most powerful thing a parent can say to their child is "I enjoyed watching you play.” What that does for their son or daughter's emotional spirit and mental state is so uplifting. So the parent training gives parents a structure for fulfilling their role in achieving the second goal. Lastly, the athletes are taught the model of a triple impact competitor, which means they aspire to elevate the game on three levels: to make themselves better, make their teammates better, and the make the game better. The first part involves elevating self. This draws on the principle of mastery, with the emphasis lying on effort, learning and bouncing back from mistakes. So in other words, having a teachable spirit. The second layer of the triple impact competitor strives to elevate teammates. This is done through encouragement, offering truthful, specific praise and constructive criticism, with the intent of making others better. That is such an important skill you learn though playing sports, that of elevating the performance of those around you, and you do that through leadership and encouragement. The final layer, this elevating the game part, that's carrying yourself and acting with sportsmanship and integrity. PCA teaches students an acronym for honoring the game: ROOTS. As an athlete you learn to show respect for the Rules, your Opponent, the Officials, your Teammates and Self. This is a powerful behavioral tool, and when put into practice, really makes the game better.

As part of the WAVE program this year we're going to be doing our triple impact competitor workshop with the 13 year olds enrolled in the Leadership Program. This is an incredible opportunity for PCA. We recognize the WAVE Program, lead by executive director Darryl Smith, as emphasizing many of the same core values we hold: developing respect for yourself and others, character building and providing campers with tools for a successful life. Darryl is a motivator, a very inspiring man. He's a very special guy.

Some of the topics we'll cover in the workshop is how to improve performance through focusing on effort and learning rather than just focusing on results. So having a mastery approach to your sport and concentrating on what you have control over. We will also introduce a mistake ritual which will help them recover quickly from mistakes and get ready for the next play. We teach kids how to hone a mental game that enables a player to rise to the occasion when they're under pressure and how to summon moral courage as well so that they can elevate their sport when it matters most. We want to teach them to become a leader that makes others around them better. That's one on the most powerful lessons in sports. The way that translates into success later on in life is this: every single company here in Silicon Valley and the SF Bay area is really looking for employees that know how to make others around them better. That's a skill and a quality that can be taught very early on.

For me personally, I think one of the most powerful tools PCA has taught me that has really helped me in my career is non attachment, which is separating our identity from our performance. Being able to pan back and see the big picture. I feel like in business and in your career, there are triumphs and successes you can celebrate, but there's also some disappointing outcomes. I have to know that my performance in this job does not define who I am as a person. There's more to me than just Brian Watson, the executive director of the PCA Chapter. So separating my identity from my performance is a very powerful tool. Also the mastery focus is so huge, just focusing on what's within my control. When I meet with potential donors, I have no control over whether this person will ultimately decide to be a donor, but I can control my preparation for that meeting, the research I've done, etc. These two things have had a really powerful impact on my life.

There's a great story of non-attachment about a farmer's son, and it goes like this. The son is distraught when he leaves the gate open one day and the family's only horse escapes. The boy says to his dad, "This is the worst thing that could happen!” To which is father replies, "How do you know that?”

The next day the horse returns leading a herd of wild horses. The son exclaims, "This is the best thing that could happen!” Again his father replies, "How do you know that?”

Well, then the son breaks his arm trying to tame the wild horses, and says to his father, "This is the worst thing that could happen!” Once again the father replies "How do you know that?”

Shortly thereafter, military recruiters come and enlist all the young men in the area, but don't take the son because he's injured, to which the son proclaims, "This is the best thing that could happen!” The father simply replies, "And how do you know that?”

There are so many things in life that in the moment it seems like the worst thing that could happen, you think it's so terrible because you can't pan back and see the big picture. But later on when you're further removed from the event you realize it wasn't as bad as you thought. For kids it's important for them to know that winning a game or failing a test doesn't determine their value, it doesn't define them, that's not who they are. So this skill of separating identity from performance is huge, and has had a profound impact on my life. It's radical.”

Tennis great Billie Jean King is a spokesperson for the Positive Coaching Alliance, and she sums up their objective this way, 'What people want to know is that we care about them as a person and to teach them you do not have your self-worth connected to your skill level. They are two separate issues. You are a beautiful human being and that's all that matters. If you can help a child or a person believe in themselves, it's everything.” And that's exactly what PCA and the WAVE Program are all about.

The WAVE Program is being funded this year by charitable grants from Hayward Lumber and the Nancy Buck Ransom Foundation. Nancy was a teacher and mentor who took an interest in young people with potential and helped them to succeed. Her Foundation has grown and generously supports youth programs in Wisconsin and Monterey County

For more information on PCA, please visit their website at
For more information on the Nancy Buck Ransom Foundation please visit

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Phone: (408) 960-5194
Address: 1160 Seaview Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

What is the WAVE Program?

The Wave Program is a two-week summer day camp for girls and boys going into 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade. We aim to provide an active, healthy, positive camp environment that sparks interest in team and individual sports and the arts electives offered at Pacific Grove High School.