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Back-To-School Tips and Tools

By Positive Coaching Alliance, 08/13/18, 12:00PM CDT


Your goal is to create what we call a Development Zone™ culture, where you focus on what is best for student-athletes’ long-term development as healthy contributors to our communities and society as a whole.

After a too-short (but hopefully happy and healthy) summer it is now back-to-school time.

That means a fresh start and a chance to make this your best sports season ever. Key to success is an environment where administrators, coaches, parents and student-athletes share a common vision, values and vocabulary. When all four of those groups are on the same page, your school sports experience offers a great opportunity for pursuing not only competitive excellence but also life lessons and character development.

Here we will take a closer look at what that means to each of the four groups and direct you to resources that can inform and inspire you toward the development of Better Athletes, Better People.


PCA urges you as a school athletic director to be a Single-Goal Leader. Your goal is to create what we call a Development Zone™ culture, where you focus on what is best for student-athletes’ long-term development as healthy contributors to our communities and society as a whole. These concepts are thoroughly explored in PCA Founder Jim Thompson’s book, Developing Better Athletes, Better People: A Leader’s Guide to Transforming High School and Youth Sports into a Development Zone.

additional resources:

5 Qualities Of A Great High School Coach is a brief video of a successful high school athletic director, covering community, caring, communication, organization and commitment.

Three Steps Toward Creating A Development Zone Culture explains the keys to establishing and maintaining your school’s athletic culture, such as setting expectations for behavior, “fixing broken windows” and building “structural pillars.”

Life Lessons And Character Development features San Francisco’s Archbishop Riordan High School Athletic Director Mike Gilleran commenting on an AD’s role in gaining buy-in to the culture. 

Even early in a season, you may encounter disgruntled parents, so watch Dealing With Upset Parents. Former Punahou School AD and current PCA-Hawaii Executive Director Jeaney Garcia explains the importance of ADs participating in meetings with coaches and parents.


Every youth and high school sports coach should be a Double-Goal Coach®, pursuing both wins and the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports. Achieving that second goal leaves a lasting legacy in the future lives of the youth you lead, teach and mentor. More on those ideas appear in Jim Thompson’s book, The Power of Double-Goal Coaching: Developing Winners in Sports and Life. 

additional resources:

The Double-Goal Coach Job Description spells out details of coach behavior that are most effective in improving athletic performance and teaching life lessons.

How To Conduct Tryouts is a printable tip-sheet sharing principles on running tryouts efficiently and with the athletes’ best interests in mind, including how to ensure fairness and how to lead drills.

How Coaches Should Handle Player Cuts gives a step-by-step approach to communicating honestly and humanely with players who do not make the team. The emphasis here is on privacy and direct, individual communication.

Coaches Cultivating A Caring Climate is a podcast with Mary Fry, Director of the University of Kansas Sport and Exercise Psychology Lab, who explains how and why athletes thrive under coaches who care. Fun is often the key!


While a Double-Goal Coach pursues both wins and life lessons, a Second-Goal Parent® focuses on the second of those two goals – life lessons.

Parents should keep their eyes on the Big Picture of how sports help their children develop into responsible, contributing members of society, instead of Little Picture concerns about playing time or preferred positions.

You can learn more in Jim Thompson’s The High School Sports Parent: Developing Triple-Impact Competitors, or for parents of younger student-athletes, Positive Sports Parenting: How Second-Goal Parents Raise Winners in Life Through Sports.

additional resources:

Surviving Tryouts And Cuts excerpts Thompson’s book as a guide for parents on helping their children through the nervousness of tryouts and the heartbreak of being cut. Parents can ease matters by assuring their children they do not need a specific level of athletic success to earn their parents’ pride.

What Sports Parents Need To Know offers advice from Joe Ehrmann, former NFL player and high school football coach. Keys here are assessing what you and your child hope to experience in sports and how that aligns with the coaches and culture of the program you are joining.

Back-To-School Tips and Tools, continued continues Parents’ Roles In Achieving Balance Between Sports And Academics contains advice from former Stanford University gymnast Shelly Goldberg, who explains exactly how her parents held her accountable with an eye toward lifelong success.

Parents Monitoring Concussions provides advice from former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team player Leslie Osborne, who experienced concussions during her career. She emphasizes the need for parents to check in multiple times with a child they suspect may have suffered a concussion.


When the adults fill their roles as described here, it is more likely that each student-athlete becomes a TripleImpact Competitor®, committed to impacting sport on three levels by improving oneself, teammates and the game as a whole. In short, they achieve the highest value of sport, Honoring the Game by the way they compete. Details are contained in Jim Thompson’s Elevating Your Game: Becoming A Triple-Impact Competitor.

Here are additional resources within

The Student-Athlete Social Media Agreement is a printable pledge for athletes to sign and honor in their online behavior. Remember, don’t let 140 characters cost you a $140,000 scholarship!

Time Management For Student-Athletes provides great advice for keeping the “student” in student-athlete. Specific tips include studying on the bus to away games.

How To Set Priorities As A Student-Athlete offers advice on the “Big Three” of sports, studies and social life. The athlete in this video recalls his coach putting the sport last in that order because athletic success was likely only if academics and a social life were managed properly to begin with.

Preventing Hazing And Bullying On Your Team is a printable article making the case for positive initiation rituals. One idea: Pair new members of the team with more senior members to create a “Big-Brother” or “Big-Sister” program.

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Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) develops BETTER ATHLETES, BETTER PEOPLE through resources for youth and high school sports coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes. PCA has partnered with roughly 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations nationwide to deliver live group workshops, online courses and books by PCA Founder Jim Thompson that help those involved in youth and high school sports create a positive, character-building youth sports culture.

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