Rivers, Valentine headline Positive Coaching Alliance breakfast

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  June 26, 2012 12:59 PM

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Celtics coach Doc Rivers was messing around on the computer one day and ran into this thing called Positive Coaching Alliance.

As the story goes, he liked what he saw so much from the organization online that he signed up and has been on the advisory board ever since with luminary coaches like Phil Jackson. That was two years ago.

Rivers, along with Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Boston College men's ice hockey coach Jerry York, and Harvard men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker headlined the first annual Sports Leadership Breakfast at Fenway Park Tuesday morning, a panel discussion put on by the alliance that served as both a fundraiser and a roundtable on positive coaching skills.

"If you look at Doc and Phil and other really great coaches, one of the characteristics is they get the best out of everyone," said Jim Thompson, the alliance's founder. "Not just their star players. Their role players come online and people who are playing with the Lakers or the Celtics do better when they're playing with those coaches. They go elsewhere and they're not so good. So even at the highest level, that kind of positive coaching, where you're making a team, the concept of Ubuntu is one we use actually in our workshops now. We're spreading it all across the country. The idea is that I can't be all I can be, unless you're all you can be. That's a huge concept and the greatest coaches do that."

The PCA also honored two local coaches, Needham football coach Dave Duffy whose Rockets were runnerup in the Division 1 EMass Super Bowl, and O'Bryant's girls basketball and volleyball coach Gertrude Fisher. Both accepted checks for $1,000 on behalf of their athletic departments.

The panelists addressed a number of topics in the discussion, including the involvement of parents -- which struck a chord with Rivers -- positive reinforcement and showing deference to referees.

"Obviously it's very difficult," said Amaker of dealing with referees. "All of our sports and teams that we're playing for, we're fighting all the time, competing with our teams, for our players. They need to see you, I think, sometimes that you're fighting for them in particular. But I think we also have to have some semblance of discipline about ourselves. I think sometimes players are going to play to their coaches in that regard, so I think it's important."

Said Valentine: "You go out and you just try and be honest and get to know the guys when you go out to either protect your players or go out and talk to the umpire. I mean, I got thrown out of a game this year when I went out and just said 'what the heck, can I get thrown out for what I'm thinking?' And he said 'no.' And then I told him what I was thinking."

Rivers was particularly pointed about parents dealing with coaches. Being a father to multiple star athletes, he professes to never interfere with their coaches and believes no parent should.

"I just think parents need to support their kids and enjoy their kids and help them at the games, and just say great job," Rivers said. "I know that's hard but I think it'll be better for the kid."

York, whose powerhouse hockey team is tops in the nation, lamented the difficulty of finding high character players.

"It's awful hard to determine character when you're recruiting a 17-year old and the mom and dad are selling that this is a perfect fit for you," York said. "And the coach is selling it and the player's on his best behavior. So it's a little bit of a gamble."

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