Positive Coaching Alliance Aims For Better Attitudes In Youth Sports

coaching: Smiling junior football team stacking hands before a match with their coach



Ever heard parents and coaches bellowing at officials at Little League Baseball games? Or heard coaches belittling players at youth soccer games? Or punishing young kids with pushups and laps?

Jim Thompson, a Stanford University faculty member, became disgusted with such behavior at his young son’s games in the 1990s.

In 1998 he founded the Positive Coaching Alliance. The mission of PCA is to impact the culture of sports and make participation more fun for young players as well as coaches and parents. A positive sports culture improves the character development of young players, while a negative culture is detrimental to youth, according to the organization.

Since its founding, PCA has partnered with at least 3,500 organizations across the United States and conducted approximately 20,000 live workshops, according to its website.

Its programming is designed to have an impact at three levels in a sports organization or school: youth, coaches and the school or sports organization culture.

PCA uses several tools to teach coaches, athletes and parents the values of positive reinforcement, constructive criticism and good sportsmanship. They include live workshops, online courses, publications, partnerships with schools and sports leagues and ongoing communications with those partners.

A harsh sports culture thwarts youth development, said Steve Young, a Hall of Fame quarterback of the National Football League, in a PCA video.

“In fact, by the age of 13, over 70% of kids drop out of youth sports because it just isn’t fun anymore,” Young says in the video. “When they quit, gone is the opportunity to teach them important character-building traits — self-confidence, resilience, teamwork, mental toughness, self-control and respect for others.”

Troy Pearson is director of the Minnesota chapter of the Positive Coaching Alliance. He grew up competing in various sports and has played college basketball and coached. 

“I’ve seen and experienced cultures and philosophies that have breathed life into me and other cultures that have sucked life out of me and those participating,” he said.

Pearson disapproves of the “win-at-all-cost mentality” that he said is present in sports at all levels of competition.

PCA helps coaches develop best practices, Thompson said.

A Tufts University survey of 4,379 coaches working with youth in high school or younger found that those who had received PCA training retained more of their athletes. Coaches, especially newer ones, who had taken the training were more likely to continue coaching, according to the study.

A See Change Institute survey of student athletes who had taken the PCA training found the majority said their sportsmanship improved, they treated their opponents better and had a more positive feeling toward officials in the season after the training.

Baseball Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher once said, “Nice guys finish last.” The Positive Coaching Alliance has a different take on that: “Positive is powerful.”

—Wade Marbaugh contributed to this article.

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Limiting the loss of nature

With only about half of Earth’s terrestrial surface remaining as natural vegetation, a University of Queensland-led team has proposed an international goal to halt its continued loss.

How Hospitals Are Helping to Reduce Gun Violence



PHILADELPHIA — As a doctor in an emergency department that only sees children, I have the unfortunate experience of witnessing the impact of violence on our youngest members of society. Getting through adolescence is difficult enough, but for teens exposed to violence the transition to adulthood can be disrupted and even more difficult. 

One story from my practice makes this clear.

hospital: Joel Fein (headshot), co-director of Violence Prevention Initiative at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, smiling man with short brown curly hair, checked blue and gray shirt

Joel Fein

David, a 15-year-old in the 10th grade, was being bullied by other boys in his school. One afternoon, David was attacked by some of those boys. He suffered injuries to his head and arms. He went home, but because of a headache that would not go away he went to a local emergency department where he received a diagnosis of concussion and a laceration on his arm. 

David’s mom was angry at the school for not handling this issue before it led to his injury and wanted to press charges against the boys who hurt him. David was scared that things would get worse if that happened, so he begged his mom not to. Over the next few weeks, David started missing school more because of his headaches, and avoided going outside much at all. He lost his formerly voracious appetite, and stopped playing basketball at the local playground. His mom was concerned about these changes, and learned that the next possible appointment with his primary care doctor would be a few weeks away. To protect himself, David considered bringing a knife or other weapon to school in case the boys attacked him again.

Stories like David’s are common in many schools and neighborhoods across the country. Here in Philadelphia, we are passionate about our neighborhoods. However, sometimes that passion gets the best of people and they use violence to settle arguments over girlfriends or boyfriends, parking spots or business deals gone bad. Sometimes that violence results in death. In 2018, 310 people died from gun violence in Philadelphia. In 2019 so far, that number is up to a staggering 325, and the year is not up. 

Boys and girls of color suffer the most from this issue, creating a significant health disparity that is only exacerbated by structural and institutional racism. Nonfatal injuries from guns are much more common, and getting even more so because our ability to save lives in the emergency department has improved over the decades. The burden of gun violence on our medical systems, and medical staff, is overwhelming. In hospitals we witness the bullet holes, knife wounds and broken jaws that come from these arguments — it’s all part of a day’s work. But the emotional toll of taking care of these victims is tremendous. For health care workers on the front lines, who see the same young people coming back multiple times with violent injuries, it can lead to hopelessness and burnout.

The Power of HVIPs

We also know that our nation’s gun violence epidemic goes beyond the well-known problem of mass shootings or gunfire between adults on street corners. Peer violence is pervasive in the lives of both boys and girls as young as eight years old, and these experiences can escalate over time to serious injury or death. 

The good news is that many medical professionals recognize this public health crisis and are trying to do something about it. In fact, some of the medical centers that see kids like David have developed programs that do much more than just treat his physical wounds and send him home. 

In emergency departments, trauma units, and intensive care units, these hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) meet victims in the hospital or soon after they are discharged and take measures to address the psychological and emotional issues that accompany the medical and surgical problems that result from violent injury — and prevent further incidents.

At HVIPs, community-based specialists on staff, who often have their own background of violent injury, meet patients where they are, listen to them and learn as much as possible about what they need to heal both inside and out. This can include keeping them safe when they are in the hospital, and especially when they leave; mediating between the people involved in the original incident to avoid retaliation; and helping them access and navigate the multitude of legal, medical and victim services systems in which they will become entangled. All this takes time, patience and a dedicated person or team to provide wraparound services to patients, as well as their families and friends, in order to keep them safe and help them recover.

For kids like David, we also know that the most important protective factor is the consistent presence of a caring adult. This is often a parent or close relative, but it can also be a teacher, coach or mentor. For HVIPs that take care of our youngest victims, it is therefore especially important to involve and engage family members in the program. 

Our Violence Intervention Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) strives to do just that. We have daily successes — along with sometimes hourly challenges — as we work within troubled municipal and mental health care systems. Working with the child and their family, we meet close to 70% of all the goals they express and almost 100% of the goals that relate to safety and security. Our violence prevention work is with individuals rather than entire communities or policymakers. Yet the unique nature of each family’s issues is underscored by theirs and their neighbors’ collective traumatic experiences. We create systemic change by meeting with leaders of city and state agencies, hospital leaders and advocacy organizations to give these families a voice. 

Challenging work

This work is challenging. Yet the movement to use this model of violence intervention is growing. For 10 years, the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention has brought together HVIPs across the country as they have begun to proliferate; today, there are over 30. As we work together, provide peer support and share information, our work becomes stronger and more effective for the people at greatest risk of violent injury. Research now shows that HVIPs save lives, reducing repeat violent injuries and addressing socioeconomic risk factors. They also cost pennies on the dollar compared to the expense of caring for an injured victim. 

You can see the way these programs work in practice in the stories of kids like David. His family quickly heard from one of our specialists, who invited them to participate in an intake session to set goals toward healing and recovery. We accompanied his mother to visit the school counselor and principal to establish a safety and monitoring plan for David as he returned to school. The school filed a security report to help his family gain Victim’s Assistance funds to reimburse their medical expenses. Over the next few months, David received care in the hospital’s concussion clinic, and he and his mother participated in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy with good resolution of his traumatic stress symptoms. 

David also got emotional support designed for kids his age. He participated in our peer-led, psychoeducational group therapy sessions and, by telling his story and explaining how he’s dealing with it, he came to be regarded by the group as a positive influence. By the time he was discharged from our program, he felt more control over his emotions and perceived himself as a “helper” to others in the program. For kids like David, HVIPs offer a vastly better outcome than traditional emergency treatment — and they also go a long way toward preventing violence in the future. 

Joel Fein, M.D., M.P.H., is an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-director of its Violence Prevention Initiative. He also serves as the research co-director for The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention.

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College Student Well-Being Improvement Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Youth Well-Being, College, Campus Health, Safety, Higher Education
Feb. 1, 2020

“The purpose of the American College Health Foundation’s (ACHF) College Well-Being Award Funding Opportunity is to offer up to two $3,500 awards to one or more institutions of higher education to create or improve underlying campus infrastructure (e.g., networks, resources, tools, structures, coalition-building) in a manner that raises the well-being of students as evidenced through creative programming and outcomes research initiatives.

The Foundation’s newest award embraces the focus on well-being, a more encompassing reference to the individuals, population, and environmental state of being. The Foundation believes it is time to apply fresh thinking on how we dedicate and apply our resources to positively impact the quality of our students lives. This new award in intended to stimulate creative, new approaches to well-being focused programming with evaluation driven measurable outcomes.”

Funder: The American College Health Foundation (ACHF)
“Only campus health professionals who are American College Health Association Individual Members or employed at an ACHA Member Institution are eligible to apply.”

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Native Hawaiian Education Project Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Education, Native Youth, Hawaii, Education Innovation
Feb. 11, 2020

“The purpose of the NHE program is to support innovative projects that recognize and address the unique educational needs of Native Hawaiians. These projects must include the activities authorized under section 6205(a)(2) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), and may include one or more of the activities authorized under section 6205(a)(3) of the ESEA.”

Funder: Department of Education
“(a) Native Hawaiian educational organizations.(b) Native Hawaiian community-based organizations.(c) Public and private nonprofit organizations, agencies, and institutions with experience in developing or operating Native Hawaiian programs or programs of instruction in the Native Hawaiian language.(d) Charter schools.(e) Consortia of the organizations, agencies, and institutions…”

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MN Early Childhood, Youth Development and Community Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Early Childhood, Youth Development, Education, Early Care, Community
Jan. 22, 2020

“The Sheltering Arms Foundation’s (SAF) mission is to invest in the lives of Minnesota’s children and help them reach their full potential.  We fund non-profit organizations and support policies that benefit children and their families who have the least access to resources. SAF envisions a Minnesota that is a vibrant, thriving state where the opportunity gap for children is closed and all children have high-quality lives, including broad and equitable access to the following:

  • childcare and early childhood education
  • high-quality out-of-school time (OST) programming
  • mental, physical, social, emotional, and intellectual wellbeing
  • supportive opportunities for families and communities.”

Funder: The Sheltering Arms Foundation
“IRS classification as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that is not a private foundation. Located and provide services within the state of Minnesota. Focus on activities benefiting children ages 0-12 and their families who are most vulnerable. Request is for an innovative new program or program expansion.”
Amount: $5,000 – $20,000

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Transformative change can save humans and nature

The survival of Earth’s life is not a battle of humans versus nature. In this week’s Science, an independent group of international experts, including one from Michigan State University (MSU), deliver a sweeping assessment of nature, concluding victory needs both humans and nature to thrive.

New York Activists, Academics Urge End to Gang Database

gang database: Rear view of men wearing coats with NYPD Police on it

The Policing & Social Justice Project


NEW YORK — Taylonn Murphy’s phone chimed steadily as he addressed reporters gathered in a boardroom Thursday. His friends were concerned. The previous night, Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old freshman at Barnard College, was fatally stabbed in a Harlem park by would-be robbers, police said. 

News outlets reported that a trail of blood led officers to an apartment in the nearby Grant Houses projects. Police arrested a 13-year-old today in the murder. 

gang database: Smiling young woman wearing earrings, jacket


Tessa Majors

Grant Houses is the public housing development where Murphy’s own 18-year-old daughter was fatally shot in 2011. It’s also a site of a 2014 raid by the New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that netted 103 suspected gang members, most of them black or Latino. One was her brother and Murphy’s namesake, Taylonn Murphy Jr., now imprisoned in Shawangunk Correctional Facility. In 2016 he was sentenced 50 years to life for murder, conspiracy, robbery and weapons charges. 

Taylonn Murphy Sr. and other activists in the boardroom at John Jay College in Manhattan called for the NYPD to delete its gang database, a list of thousands of suspected gang members, almost all of them non-white. Many, they say, have only tenuous connections to actual gang members. And it’s not clear why any one person landed in the database.

“This database is so secret,” Murphy said. “There’s no transparency. We don’t know how young individuals get on this database. We don’t know how to get them off this database.”

Alex Vitale, sociology professor at Brooklyn College, and Josmar Trujillo, an activist and writer, demanded the elimination of the database Thursday in a report they co-authored.

“The mayor needs to make up his mind whether he’s going to continue to rely primarily on an ever-expanding gang unit and a growing gang database, or to switch to real community-based strategies that try to treat young people with respect, try to build them and their communities up — not tear them down,” Vitale said. 

‘Left to fight blindfolded’

New York BureauThe NYPD’s reliance on its gang database does nothing to help him curtail the type of youth violence that upended his life, Murphy said. He now works as a “credible messenger,” a member of an affected community who intervenes in the lives of young people with the aim of reducing gang violence. 

Other critics of the database say it makes life harder for those named in it, accurately or not. Those in the database say they’re subject to police harassment. Defendants in gang takedowns have been evicted from public housing. And reputed gang affiliation makes defendants vulnerable to federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) conspiracy charges that carry lengthy prison sentences. 

Being in the database means a prosecutor can mention an arrestee’s gang affiliation before a judge, who might be inclined to set a higher bail amount as a result, according to the report. 

“In bail applications, prosecutors will simply assert that they have information that a person is a gang member without revealing their sources. We are left to fight blindfolded against the gang allegations,” said a defense attorney quoted in the report. 

The gang database includes the names of hundreds of minors, according to figures obtained in 2018 through a Freedom of Information Law request by Babe Howell, a professor at City University of New York School of Law.

But NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has downplayed the presence of juveniles within the database. Last year Shea, then chief of detectives, wrote in an opinion column in the Daily News:

“Current subjects in the database have an average of 11 prior arrests, almost half for felony crimes. They are not as young as some believe, either. Only 8.3% were entered before their 18th birthday and less than 2.5% are currently under 18. Their average age is 27.”

Many potential warning signs

However, Trujillo and Vitale’s report shows the NYPD’s 5,000-plus school safety agents, who patrol the city’s public schools, are trained to spot gang members based on “warning signs” such as “interest in certain colors and clothing,” “staying out late,” “unexplained wealth” and “hangs out with gang members.” The word of a school safety agent plus that of one other source is enough to land a student in the gang database.

“If you see the school safety agents being … given this mentality to look for these things, you also open the door for a lot of racial assumptions, a lot of assumptions about young men of color and young women of color,” Trujillo said. “The gang label really feeds off society’s racism.” 

The NYPD says the database has been cut from 34,000 to 17,500 names since 2014. In 2018, it was still at 17,500 names. The department said that in the last four years it has removed 3,700 names by reviewing people on their 23rd and 28th birthdays as well as once every three years. And the department insists including nongang members runs counter to the aims of the database. 

“We are in the era of precision policing. Saturating the database with non-gang members limits its usefulness,” a NYPD spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

But even by its own stated criteria, all that’s required for someone to be included in the database is to “associate with known gang members” and frequent a “known gang location.” No further activity — wearing colors, throwing signs, making statements of affiliation on social media — would be necessary. 

On Dec. 6 New York State Assemblymember Dan Quart, a Democrat, wrote to the city’s Inspector General Philip Eure, asking his office to investigate how names end up in the gang database, and how police share information about suspected gang members with prosecutors. He wants the city to eliminate the database altogether, but in the meantime wants to mitigate what he sees as its harms. 

“The NYPD seems hell-bent on continuing to employ these techniques, so there should be an investigation,” Quart said. “I’m always hopeful, but I’m not optimistic that this Police Commissioner will dismantle the database.” 

The report’s authors also promote a future without the gang database, in which gang violence is curtailed through community intervention. Vitale said John Jay College recently evaluated the credible-messenger model of violence reduction that Murphy uses in Harlem.

“That report showed dramatic success in reducing shootings and homicides in the targeted communities compared with similar communities that did not have these programs,” he said. 

Such an alternative to the NYPD’s current approach to gang violence might have spared the life of Tessa Majors, Murphy said. 

“I believe if we had some of these cure-violence services, or some of these credible-messenger services in place with boots on the ground, [the killing of Majors] might have been deterred.”

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Children’s Mental Healthcare Access Improvement Program Development Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Health, Mental Health, Healthcare Access, Research
Jan. 10, 2020

“The Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation (“KTGF”) funds programs in children’s mental health, principally in the areas of childhood/adolescent depression and ADHD. It also funds medical student programs in child and adolescent psychiatry at select medical institutions. Through these programs, the KTGF seeks to further research in pediatric ADHD and pediatric depression, cultivate more child and adolescent psychiatrists and increase knowledge of mental health in physicians.

We are soliciting applications for investigator-initiated proposals to demonstrate the benefits of new health care delivery methods or prevention approaches. We are particularly interested in funding applications that build on promising pilot work and aim to develop larger demonstration projects.

In particular, the KTGF is most interested in improving access to mental health care for children and expanding the number of professional and paraprofessional treatment personnel who are trained to deliver mental health services. Primary outcomes should include the measurement of improved access and reduced time to service delivery. We are additionally interested in the following secondary outcomes: minimizing the burdens and maladaptive behaviors associated with mental health problems in children; decreasing the development of secondary co-morbid disorders, and the development of adverse educational, relational and health outcomes; and improving the functioning of youth and their families.  Because parents can be important to the successful treatment of their children, another secondary outcome is the enhanced ability of parents to facilitate their children’s access to treatment…”

Funder: The Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation (KTGF)
“Investigators from institutions and agencies that provide mental and behavioral health programs for children and adolescents are eligible. Investigators can be at any stage in their career but must have collected enough pilot data to inform the development of the proposed project and must be well enough established to lead an effort such as this. For investigators who are relatively early in their career, we recommend partnering with a more senior investigator who has expertise in program development and dissemination.”
Up to $100,000 ($50,000 per year for two years)

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Communication, Cooperation Needed to Remove Firearms From Domestic Abusers

gun violence: Hurdles of miscellaneous sizes in a row



According to the Violence Policy Center’s 2019 report When Men Murder Women, 92% of homicides committed against women were perpetrated by men known to the women. Of those, 62% were either spouses or intimate partners of the victims. For those cases in which a weapon could be identified, 57% of the homicides were committed with a firearm, and two-thirds of those firearms were committed with a handgun. Black women, specifically, were murdered at a rate twice that of white women, with 62% of those murders committed with a firearm, and 72% of those firearms being handguns. 

gun violence: David Keck (headshot), project director of National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, bald man with mustache wearing white shirt

Dave Keck

Access to a firearm has long been identified as one of the most crucial lethality indicators for victims of domestic violence, increasing a victim’s risk of lethality five times.

It is against this backdrop of the role of firearms in intimate partner violence and homicide cases that laws have been enacted on the federal and state levels prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms.

Most communities do not enforce

Across the nation, more than half of states have laws requiring domestic abusers to relinquish firearms in their possession if they are subject to a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) or have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV). Unfortunately, very few communities have actually implemented these laws effectively. In fact, most communities do not actively enforce these prohibitions at all.  

The reasons for this vary across jurisdictions and are sometimes quite complex. Generally, however, implementation and enforcement of these prohibitions are stymied by purely logistical hurdles. 

Many of these stymied communities operate under weak or vague state statutory schemes. While some states’ statutes include specific directives to courts and law enforcement regarding how and by whom firearm surrender should be accomplished, many do not. 

Some states’ statutes provide specific, chronological steps for conducting firearm surrender with responsibilities assigned accordingly, but most states’ laws provide very little guidance or authority as to how this takes place. The result is that without specific laws outlining a process and responsibilities, it is unclear to most communities how to apply law to local practice and agree upon who is responsible for various aspects of implementation.

Helping communities overcome hurdles

At the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, we work with communities that are working on overcoming various logistical hurdles to full implementation and enforcement of firearm prohibitions. We advise communities that effective firearm surrender protocols have a minimum of four essential components: 1) accurately identifying individuals prohibited from possessing firearms; 2) determining whether those individuals possess firearms; 3) issuing legal orders that direct those individuals to surrender any firearms; and crucially, 4) monitoring compliance with the orders and ensuring that firearms have been surrendered.  

It is essential that these four components are formally considered and developed to realize actual and reliable implementation and enforcement. In the absence of any single feature, communities cannot reliably assure that prohibited persons are not in possession of firearms.   

Each of these steps in firearm surrender protocols require thoughtful planning, communication and cooperation between the various players in the legal system. The details of a community’s legal system must be collectively waded-through, or “mapped,” and discussed. 

For example, identifying how and where information about firearm possession exist inside various agencies in the legal system necessitates that those agencies be willing to look at the data each collects and to share that information. Monitoring compliance with court orders requires that courts and law enforcement create new and reliable communication channels.   

For several decades, most communities have been slow to sit down and work out solutions to the various hurdles that implementation of the statutes presents. This has resulted in few models and protocols that other communities can replicate. 

For example, when one community identifies how to facilitate safe transfer of firearms to law enforcement, or mechanisms for ensuring the cooperation of third-party transferees, other communities benefit from their problem-solving. As more communities develop safe and effective protocols for enforcing firearm prohibitions, we will see a strong uptick in communities quickly following suit. 

None of the logistical hurdles to surrender are insurmountable, but they do require time, commitment and multiagency cooperation to be removed. At the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, we have seen firsthand that the legal and logistical hurdles that impede many communities from removing firearms from domestic abusers can be effectively overcome if the will to do so exists. 

David W. Keck is the project director of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms. He provides training and consultation around the country on implementation of laws prohibiting firearms possession by domestic offenders.

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New research pinpoints which of the world’s trees are climate-ready

Botanists from Trinity College Dublin have discovered that “penny-pinching” evergreen species such as Christmas favourites, holly and ivy, are more climate-ready in the face of warming temperatures than deciduous “big-spending” water consumers like birch and oak. As such, they are more likely to prosper in the near future—with this pattern set to be felt more strongly in cooler climates, such as Ireland’s.