Hillsborough County now mixes fun, games and self-respect lessons at summer camps

Positive Coaching Alliance helps kids cope

TAMPA, Fla. — At first, Ryan hated sharing her feelings and her life stories. After all, this is summer camp. More ping-pong, less therapy.

“I was like, ‘This is just going to waste my time.’ I didn’t want to do it,” says the 13-year-old about a new pilot program at Hillsborough County Parks & Rec camps.

But after hearing kids her age share stories about their lives — about self-respect, about making mistakes, about coping with frustrations — Ryan started to look forward to that special 30 minutes a day at her Tampa camp.

“I was like, whoa, this is kind of cool, hearing everybody’s experiences.”

The Positive Coaching Alliance, which partners with such local organizations as the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, wants to help kids of all ages deal with frustrations in sports, school and the community.

It’s not easy being a kid these days, so giving them an outlet to vent frustrations and focus on positive results helps.

“The kids are coming home maybe a little more positive, a little more encouraging, showing more effort at home,” says the PCA’s Mason Cathey.

While the program was originally sports-based, the PCA is expanding into places like Hillsborough summer camps.

For 30 minutes a day, kids at the camp form a “Positive Circle.” Counselors trained in the PCA method guide character-building discussions that try to help kids navigate their emotions, their decisions.

The idea is to build empathy not just for each other, but also for coaches, referees, teachers, parents.

As for Ryan, she’s going to miss those talks. “I think they should use this during the school year. At least for 15 minutes a day.”

To learn more about the Positive Coaching Alliance, go to https://www.positivecoach.org/.

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