Strengthening Character Through Sports

  • Prosperity
  • 2007

David Weekley was involved in character-building activities as a youth through Boy Scouts and church groups. After his success as a major home builder he decided to devote 50 percent of his income and his time to philanthropy, and character development was a key concern. It “is every bit as critical as economic aid or health care or education reform,” he told Philanthropy. Weekley was a longtime funder of Scouting, which reaches 20 or 25 percent of young people; sports, however, reaches around 75 percent. “I’m not personally a sports enthusiast but the country has become more focused athletically and more and more kids are involved,” said Weekley. So he set out looking for a charitable partner who could help children and their coaches build wholesome and productive values through athletics.

Weekley discovered there was no national organization doing this well, but his gaze eventually settled on a small northern California group called the Positive Coaching Alliance. Founded in 1998 and operating at just a handful of regional locations when Weekley discovered it, PCA trains parents in positive sportsmanship, teaches coaches how to offer constructive life lessons to their charges, and helps athletes become better teammates and citizens. Weekley offered the group grants to expand first to his hometown of Houston, and then to the rest of Texas, Boston, Chicago, and dozens of other cities. Believing that decentralized leadership and local boards “are critical” to grassroots success, Weekley worked with the group’s leaders to develop a model that would allow many other cities to start their own chapters. PCA also built strong links to existing groups like Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, and the Amateur Athletic Union.

Within a few years, 5 million young athletes had been touched by the PCA, and numerous other philanthropists had gotten involved, including the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, which gave the group a $2 million grant in 2012. “There’s no reason that in 10-15 years PCA can’t become like the Boy Scouts or YMCA in every major city in the country,” says Weekley. “The need for character development, given the breakdown of the family and other challenges we face in our society, is not going away, and PCA has the potential to have a major impact.”