Nonprofit trains coaches to make sports positive experience for kids, win or lose

- When it comes to young athletes, it’s not always about winning and losing. Sports can teach kids lots of important life lessons and that's why many coaches in the Twin Cities metro are taking on special training of their own.

When parents get upset, when kids brawl or when players go after officials, sports aren’t allowed to be all that they can be. The character building, sportsmanship and teamwork aren’t able to be taught or learned.

Mike Terwillige, a former college hockey player turned dad who now coaches his own kids now, says coaches can be the biggest influence on their players.

"Just my own experience - some of the most important people in my life were coaches so it can be a huge influence. A coach can get to a kid at a different level."

Terwillige says his own coaches knew how to motivate, not humiliate.

"The guy I played for in college, Joe Marsh, was intense and wanted to win but kept priorities,” Terwillige says. “He was honest and fair and kind. Everything you'd want."

That's why Terwillige says he's glad coaches in his league in Eden Prairie go through training with the Positive Coaching Alliance, which trains coaches on ways to keep sports positive.

The PCA is a national nonprofit with 14 chapters, including one in Minnesota.  Sports, they believe, should be about life skills.

"Kids staying in sports, they do well in the real world,” Katie Hanneman, a staff member with the PCA, says. “Companies want to hire these kids. They are competitive [and] know how to balance a schedule. [Those are] the basic life skills we want that to be at the forefront of coaching.”

Hanneman is a former college golfer and college coach. She says the "win at all cost" mentality not only sends a bad message, it prompts a lot of kids to drop out of sports.

“Right now we are seeing close to 80 percent of kids dropping out [of sports] by the age of 13,” Hanneman says.

One of the biggest goals of the PCA is teaching coaches to teach their players how to deal with a mistake. 

"We're able to get the kid to bounce back quicker and do a good job the rest of the game, where they may have folded before,” Hanneman says.

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