Mason Cathey, Positive Coaching Alliance – Tampa Bay

Like the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) loves the Tampa Bay community and knows we are blessed with philanthropic leaders. These generous leaders are doing great things to improve the lives of all who live, work, and play here.

I am a nonprofit leader at PCA-Tampa Bay and witnessed incredible generosity this past year from people and organizations familiar with our mission and our specific work. PCA-Tampa Bay partners with leaders in the community to deliver workshops and program support to positively impact youth and our mission is to transform the youth sports culture into an environment where all kids and high school student-athletes have a positive, character-building experience that results in ‘better athletes, better people.’

On National Philanthropy Day we reflect on Cy and Joanne Spurlino at the Spurlino Foundation. Cy and Joanne, along with their philanthropic advisor and grants manager, Diana Baker, have helped our greater Tampa Bay community for many years and in a number of ways. Some of the organizations they support include Metropolitan Ministries, local Humane Societies, Feeding Tampa Bay, our local YMCA including the Spurlino Family YMCA, the Florida Wildlife Corridor, Lowry Park Zoo, United Way Suncoast and it’s continued regionalization efforts, the American Red Cross, and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to name a few. Animal, environmental, and child development are a few of their primary areas of philanthropy. They give thoughtfully and we are proud to partner with them.

PCA – Tampa Bay is heavily involved with kids and coaches in the community and with the support of the Spurlinos, our organization has been able to establish an ongoing relationship with Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation. Together, we have been able to provide experiences and opportunities kids and families would not receive elsewhere.

2020 was a tough year for many people, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. The Spurlino Foundation worked very closely with PCA – Tampa Bay to talk about how they could continue to help and support our mission. Understanding that our opportunities and partnerships would look different in 2020, Cy, Joanne, and Diana Baker talked with me to responsibly channel funding to where it could be used for the most impact. They understood that our close partnership with Hillsborough County would not crumble due to COVID and that in fact, we had even more opportunities to connect with Hillsborough’s staff. With fewer kids attending summer camp, more time and space was provided for PCA to spend in the parks assisting the staff, developing stronger relationships, and educating the coaches more fully and deeply on PCA’s Character Development Program.

The Character Development Program as we learned is not just for the elementary aged kids, but also for the staff and coaches in each of the 12 parks across Tampa Bay. From Jackson Springs Park in Town ‘n Country, to Mango or All People’s Life Center near King High School, and down to Emanuel P Johnson Park towards the more south part of the county, all staff and kids are learning a common language and set of principles they can discuss and practice whether they’re at the park, at home, in school, or in their neighborhood. The program stems from PCA’s main principles of filling Emotional Tanks, the ELM Tree of Mastery where ELM stands for effort, learning, and bouncing back from mistakes, and Honoring the Game through ROOTS (respecting the Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates, and Self). Through the program, main lessons and smaller group discussions center around these principles. Conversations and teachable moments enable elevated learning and development and parents are encouraged to continue the discussion on the car ride home or at the dinner table.

When asked about the Character Development Program in 2020, one staff member, Karlie from Emanuel P Johnson, said, “It’s definitely changed the group dynamics. We’re able to take a second, pause, break the situation down, and actually have a conversation about it which they understand now because they understand what it means to have emotions and control them.”

It is likely that Karlie worked with this young man from the same park who said he’s now “putting myself in better situations, thinking before I act. Now I can control myself better than I could before I learned those things.”

Here are a few other takeaways from kids, coaches, and a parent in the parks:

Kid at Jackson Springs park: “I learned if you put your mind to it, you can do it because getting better during the process of the goal. You get to learn by step-by-step and when you get to the final one, you will be happy that you achieved it.”

Coach at Jackson Springs park: “They have the most fun doing it and I, as a coach, love doing this.”

Kid at All People’s park “If you respect yourself and the choices you make, it can bring a strong impact on what you decide to do in the future. It can improve your job, your grades in school, and what you can accomplish.”

Coach at All People’s park: “Implementing PCA has helped them work together as a class. PCA has helped each of them be more confident. They’ve grown with PCA.”

Kid at Emanuel P Johnson park: “My group learned that we should be mindful of others and we should be nicer to others. I know that this program has made a big benefit in our group and in our camp.”

Kid at Roy Haynes park: “Even though we had to stay 6’ apart, we could always put a smile on someone’s face.”

Kid at Mango park: “I feel good, I feel excited. I do stuff that makes people feel happy, makes people feel good. I fill their E-Tank. I hope other people could get it (the program), too.”

Coach at Westchase park: “For us as coaches, especially with the situation we’re in now, we’re trying to make the program better. For the kids, it’s them coming in and trying as hard as they and not give up as easily when they mess up. We want to really be that example and embody the Character Development Program. They see us every day and they look to us as an example so it’s important that we follow the Character Development Program.”

Coach at Roy Haynes park: “We have the willingness and now the tools and support. I felt like I was very prepared. Each weekly lesson helped provide me and the staff with new insight, knowledge, and activities to reach each child.”

Parent at Jackson Springs park: “It’s been a rewarding summer for her. It’s invaluable.”

The Spurlino Foundation has shown leadership and has been a role model of philanthropy for many years, through a tough 2020, and continues that valued position to this day. Their resilience, understanding, and commitment to generosity allowed PCA – Tampa Bay to innovate and add virtual programming, creative worksheets, and convert work to Zoom, too. The Spurlinos helped us achieve many goals in 2020 and set us up for success in 2021. Where we innovated and what we learned we have been able to carry-over to this year. The new methods for connecting with partners and delivering our programs positions our chapter to have more partnerships and impact in the community, connect with kids in new ways, and connect coaches with their student-athletes like we have not done in the past. In addition to the Character Development Program aimed at elementary aged children, PCA offers the Character and Leadership Development Program implemented with high school student-athletes and their coaches throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, and surrounding counties.

The Spurlino Foundation is committed to high standards and that makes us better and the community better. The Character Development Program receives funding from Hillsborough County and also from BayCare Health System during the summer. The Spurlino Foundation’s philanthropic giving allows for the program to run year-round. As Adrienne Rouse, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Supervisor stated, “Teaching character never stops.”

On this National Philanthropy Day and every day, we are thankful for Cy and Joanne Spurlino and Diana Baker and their interest in our work, our positive impact, the culture change we’re making in coordination with Hillsborough County. We are thankful.

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