Elevating the game on Orcas

The Lady Vikings soccer team celebrating after a game in the 2014 season.

The Vikings are about to get new inspiration for playing better on and off the field.

Thanks to local donations through the Orcas Island Community Foundation’s Partners in Philanthropy, the Booster Club has received funding to participate in the Positive Coaching Alliance program.

“It uses sports as a means to teach life lessons,” said Justin Paulsen, who is coordinating the initiative. “The program educates coaches, parents and kids. Right now we don’t have any continuity with training. Keeping kids involved and keeping it a positive experience is hard when not everyone is working off the same page.”

The coaching alliance was originally launched at Stanford University. Now schools across the country can join the program for workshops, online courses and books. A personal advisor is assigned to participating schools to make sure it’s a smooth process.

Trainers will be arriving on Orcas in August to work with coaches and middle and high school students on positive leadership, good sportsmanship and more. There will be additional training in the fall and spring, and the Booster Club hopes to supplement the program with visits from athletes and coaches from around the region.

The OICF grant brought in $9,000 and there is $6,000 left to raise.

“The program is essentially funded for the first year and we are building on it for the next two years,” Paulsen said. “We are also still looking for accommodations and food for the trainers when they are here.”

While the Booster Club is the lead entity on the grant, the public school and Orcas Island Park and Rec District are partners on the project. There is a committee of teachers, coaches and community members that will oversee the three-year initiative.

“This program has been a successful working model throughout schools, park and recreation and other organizations across the country,” said Kim Ihlenfeldt, program coordinator for OIPRD. “With tools for coaches, parents, athletes, officials and administrators it provides support for all facets of each of our sports programs.”

Ihlenfeldt says the PCA will be able to educate students of all ages.

“Many of these children are starting their sports experiences as young as 4 years old and will have the opportunity to begin building constructive and effective character-building traits they will carry throughout their lifetimes,” she said.

Paulsen is passionate about the importance of a strong athletic department in the school system.

“The lessons that sports teach are very important and applicable in many realms outside of athletics,” he said. “Especially for girls, teaching them that they’re confident and capable and strong – athletics is a really good way to do that … This is the Booster Club’s way of fundamentally changing how the athletic program works. It has a more lasting effect.”