Oakland youth coaches get trained in supporting athletes in and out of competition

Curry Brand teamed up with the Positive Coaching Alliance to help Bay Area team leaders guide their athletes through the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and life beyond sports

Youth sports coaches in underserved communities have long worked double duty, offering young athletes mental and emotional support in addition to skills instruction. This holds true for team leaders in Oakland, California, where nearly one third of children live in poverty.


“I’ve always said that to coach here in Oakland, you have to be more than a coach,” said Franky Navarro, who grew up playing sports in the area and is now commissioner of the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Oakland Athletic League. “You have to embrace the fact you’re a mentor — or even an ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ — to some of these kids. You have to have that mentality that you want to go above and beyond.”


Since the pandemic began, coaches in Oakland have done even more for their athletes, helping them cope with the lasting effects of an unprecedented year while preparing them for an unpredictable fall sports season. However, the ongoing challenges facing young athletes also challenges coaches whose roles as informal counselors have been tested like never before.


To give team leaders the tools to support their athletes in and out of competition during COVID-19 and beyond, Curry Brand, powered by Under Armour, provided training to middle and high school sports coaches in Oakland via the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to building productive youth sports environments through character-building resources and workshops. By engaging every coach in the Oakland Athletic League, as well as Oakland Parks, Recreation & Youth Development, the adopted home of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry becomes the first city to be certified in PCA’s Double-Goal Coach program — a curriculum that focuses on understanding the emotional aspects of athletics and teaching life lessons through sports.


Casey Miller, vice president of external relations at PCA, explained one of the program’s core concepts is the idea of the emotional tank; if an athlete’s emotional tank is not full, he or she will not be able to perform at their best, on or off the field. PCA encourages coaches to regularly check in on the mental status of their players and shares specific ways leaders can help athletes navigate emotional obstacles.


These teachings became increasingly relevant as interest in PCA’s trainings rose in response to the challenges of the pandemic. The organization conducted more workshops in April 2021 than any other month in its 22-year history.


“I think the pandemic gave people an opportunity to step back and look at the greater purpose of youth and high school sports — the No. 1 goal is to develop better humans.”

Casey Miller, Vice President of External Relations at PCA

“Youth sports generally have a pretty strong infrastructure of leagues, coaches, and players, but there just aren’t many resources out there for how to get through this time, so we have been able to help with that,” she added. 


In addition to coaches, PCA also educates athletes on how to manage their mental and emotional wellbeing, a practice that has helped rising Bay Area high school senior Chloe Burke come to terms with the progression of her track and field career after she missed out on training because of the pandemic.


“I had to think past this tough time and think about my future, and I realized that this was just a small thing in the grand scheme of things,” she said. “With track, that helped a lot, because it kind of put me at peace and made me happy with where I am.”


As Burke begins planning for her life after sports and post pandemic, Navarro hopes that the new PCA training for coaches in Oakland has a similar effect on the area’s young athletes, helping them triumph over today’s hardships so that they can reach their full potential.


“Developing young people to be great adults who want to go out, learn, and come back to share with their neighbors is ultimately how we get our community to be a great community,” he said. “With everything that's going on, for someone like Curry to want to provide opportunities for our youth is incredible. We’re extremely grateful for his support.”


Tenth grader Akeelah Nelson (left) plays volleyball, basketball and softball at OUSD’s Madison Park Academy under athletic director Dion Evans (right).