by: Mark Simon
Thursday, August 27, 1998
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle
Mark McGwire uses an over-the-counter steroid, which may
or may not be of some help in his chase of Roger Maris'
single-season home run record. Scratch another role model.
as Stanford professor Jim Thompson might say, the problems
lies not with our stars but with ourselves. If you're looking
to pro sports for role models, you're looking in the wrong
place, says Thompson.
place to look is youth sports. Not the youth sports of today,
which Thompson says has been polluted by pro sports. He's
talking about the youth sports of another era, when coaches
were role models, and how you played the game counted more
wants to lead a revolutionary restoration of youth sports
as the place where we teach all the things we think sports
should teach -- character, discipline, sacrifice, teamwork,
toughness and sportsmanship.
is a matter, Thompson said, of "transforming youth sports
so sports can transform youth." That's why Thompson is giving
up his job as director of the Stanford Business School Public
Management Program late this fall and moving over to the
university athletic department, where he will launch the
Positive Coaching Alliance.
alliance will be a national organization that will put a
new focus on youth sports and the people who run and coach
youth sports through national awards, conferences and standards
that emphasize instruction over winning, ethics over competition.
"I want to change the very idea of what it means to be a
youth sports coach,"
said in an interview at his cluttered office at the Stanford
Business School. "Coaches and teachers of youth sports don't
get a lot of money," Thompson said. "But what they do have
is a chance to have influence and influence that lives on."
Positive Coaching Alliance will not be a clearinghouse for
all the complaints against pro sports and the misconduct
of pro athletes. "I am a fan of pro sports," Thompson said.
"But pro sports is different from youth sports. The problem,
largely, is that people don't see those as two different
animals." The emphasis on winning in the pros has polluted
youth sports, Thompson said, even as youth sports at the
school level has fallen into disrepair.
young sports fans hear, "over and over again is that winning,
if it's not everything, is like 89 percent. I'm not criticizing
that as a business. Winning is a serious business in pro
sports. It's do or die." "Youth sports is something different.
. . . Youth sports should be part of education, part of
the character-development process of raising our kids,"
come from succeeding, when success is defined as mastery
rather than ego gratification," Thompson said. Thompson's
views on sports were not formed in an ivory tower. Among
other things, he coached the Fremont High School girls'
varsity basketball team for two seasons.
book on his experiences at Fremont, Shooting in the Dark:
Tales of Coaching and Leadership, is a tremendous treatise
on youth sports coaching and should be required reading
for everyone who will be teaching children how to play organized
no coincidence that the alliance will be launched at Stanford,
where a hugely successful athletics program is a fundamental
aspect of the education of future lawyers and business executives
and doctors -- where the yardstick often measures growth
and improvement, not just the win-loss record.
said he's in this for the long haul. He's planning on devoting
the next decade to building the alliance and raising up
youth sports. In the end, it will be a lesson about character,
Thompson said. "That's what sports gives -- the opportunity
to build character," Thompson said. "That opportunity has
to be seized."