Jim Thompson

SEC Advisory Board

Jim Thompson is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Positive Coaching Alliance , a national non-profit he started at Stanford University in 1998 to transform the culture of youth sports into a Development Zone™ with the goal to develop Better Athletes, Better People. 

For more than 25 years. Jim has been focused on how to get the best from people, especially youth, through the unsurpassed vehicle of youth sports with its endless procession of teachable moments.

Since PCA was found in 1998, it has partnered with more than 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations and has created a network of more than 150 trainers across the U.S. who have delivered more than 20,000 dynamic live workshops for youth sports leaders, coaches, parents and athletes, reaching more than 8 million youth athletes.

PCA’s Development Zone Resource Center (pcadevzone.org) is becoming the go-to online resource for leaders, coaches, parents and athletes who face challenges in their sports experience. Jim developed mental models for how sports can be a character-building youth development experience:

  • The Double-Goal Coach, who strives to win while also pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports;
  • The Second-Goal Parent, who concentrates on life lessons while letting coaches and athletes focus on the scoreboard;
  • The Triple-Impact Competitor, who impacts sports on three levels by improving self, teammates and the game as a whole.

Jim has recruited an outstanding team that has helped PCA grow into a thriving nationwide organization with 17 Chapters and an expansion plan to launch three new Chapters annually and reach 20 million youth athletes by 2020. In March 2016, PCA was named “one of the best nonprofits to work for” by the Nonprofit Times.

PCA’s vision of youth sports as a Development Zone has attracted the support and involvement of many elite coaches, athletes, academics and business leaders in this country. PCA’s corps of more than 150 Certified Trainers delivered more than 2,200 live workshops in 2015 alone for leaders, coaches, parents and athletes. Studies by outside evaluators have shown PCA’s impact.

Jim has written nine books on youth sports:

  • Positive Coaching: Building Character & Self-Esteem Through Sports (1993)
  • Shooting in the Dark: Tales of Coaching and Leadership (1998)
  • The Double-Goal Coach (2003)
  • Positive Coaching in a Nutshell (2007)
  • Positive Sports Parenting (2009)
  • The High School Sports Parent: Developing Triple-Impact Competitors (2009)
  • The Power of Double-Goal Coaching (2010)
  • Elevating Your Game: Becoming a Triple-Impact Competitor (2011)
  • Developing Better Athletes, Better People (2014)

For 10+ years, Jim was Director of the Public and Global Management Programs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he taught courses in leadership and non-profit issues. US News named Stanford’s Public Management Program the top nonprofit business management program in the nation in 1992.

He has a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota, a Masters in Public Affairs from the University of Oregon, and a Stanford MBA.

Jim has served on the Board of Special Olympics, Inc. In 2004, Jim was named an International Fellow by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, an organization that recognizes outstanding social entrepreneurs. In 2013, Jim and PCA received the inaugural ETHOS Award (Ethics of Sports) from the Institute for Sports Law and Ethics. He is a member of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program faculty, where he teaches courses in coaching, leadership, and sport & spiritually. 

Jim and his wife, Sandra Hietala, are founding board members of Recovery Café San José (www.recoverycafesj.org), a healing community for individuals with mental illness challenges and drug abuse issues. Their son, Gabriel Thompson, is a journalist and author of America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the 20th Century.

—November 2016