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La Cañada school officials tout program aimed to foster ‘better athletes, better people’

La Cañada High girls’ soccer

The La Cañada High girls’ soccer team celebrates a goal in a game vs. San Marino High on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

(Raul Roa / La Cañada Valley Sun)

To ensure student athletes cultivate winning attitudes as well as winning records, La Cañada Unified officials supported Tuesday a Positive Coaching Alliance program being tested at the high school and revised board policy on how athletes earn physical education credits.

School board members received a progress report on the new alliance from Athletic Director Kristina Kalb, who shared the goals of the booster-funded program. She said she hopes to change the culture of athletics among coaches, players, parents and fans for the better.

“Two years ago when I became athletic director, I noticed there were certain aspects of the (sports) culture that I absolutely loved and enjoyed in La Cañada,” she said. “However, there was also some room for growth.”

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Anecdotes about fans intimidating opposing teams and coaches and players being removed from games for bad behavior got Kalb wondering if, in their overt desire to win, coaches, parents and the players themselves might be missing out on some of the rich life lessons competitive sports can offer.

Kalb talked to other districts and institutions, and was repeatedly referred to a program developed in 1998 by the Stanford University Athletic Department.

La Cañada High School football

La Cañada High’s Jamie Washington, center, celebrates with his teammates after intercepting a pass.

(Photo by Libby Cline)

Operating under the motto “Better athletes, better people,” the Positive Coaching Alliance has worked with more than 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations nationwide to imbue traditionally held goals of winning games and breaking records with the personal development of student athletes as teammates and as human beings.

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Ray Lokar, a former coach and athletic director who now works in the program, told board members the nonprofit PCA provides schools with the training, tools and resources necessary to implement a program throughout all student sports.

The alliance trains coaches to create a culture of respect by broadening their definition of winning to include athletes’ personal development and growth, both individually and as a team. Parents are taught to help reinforce those personal lessons on and off the playing field.

“We don’t go around telling people what the culture of their individual schools are supposed to be like, but we do talk about all the different constituents and people who are involved in the culture, who are responsible for kids having the kind of experiences they’re going to have,” Lokar told board members. “We (also) redefine winning by taking the focus off the scoreboard.”

Kalb said the LCHS Spartan Boosters agreed to fund the program for a two-year period. The campus PTSA and LCUSD contributed toward the cost of books and T-shirts meant to help drive the lessons home for the school community.

A small group of coaches shared their own observations about the success of the program so far. Board member Kaitzer Puglia recalled Kalb approaching the Spartans Boosters with the initial request for funding.

“I’m so excited this has been introduced to the school and has been embedded into the organizational culture,” Puglia said, asking Kalb to come back again with another progress report in the near future. “Ultimately, this is going to impact our student population.”

P.E. Credits

Also on Tuesday, the school board revised its policy detailing how students who play on CIF sports receive physical education credits. The change, explained LCHS Assistant Principal Mary Hazlett, was intended to alleviate unequal treatment between athletes and non-athletes.

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Students enrolled in daily P.E. classes are able to earn five credits per semester, or 10 per year over 40 weeks, toward a 20-unit graduation requirement. By comparison, athletes who participate in one season of team sports are given 10 credits each year, though their season is only 10 weeks long.

With the remaining time, they can study, condition or leave school for sixth period. It was the last option, Hazlett said, that had some parents complaining.

“Many parents voiced concerns this amount of free time ... wasn’t maybe the best option,” Hazlett said.

The new policy funnels student athletes back into traditional P.E. courses for the time they are not actively playing their sport. Then, coaches will work with P.E. teachers on one comprehensive grade for the semester. Both athletes and non-athletes will also be able to fulfill their health requirement by using four weeks of P.E. class time to take a complete health curriculum, offered by a certificated teacher.

Hazlett said the new policy would take effect for incoming freshman starting next school year, and that current high school students would continue under the existing policy.

Fielding new options for LCHS facility use

La Cañada Unified Chief Business and Operations Officer Mark Evans opened discussions with board members Tuesday about entering into a licensing agreement with Los Angeles Premier Futbol Club, current lessee of the La Cañada High School stadium field, over the use of space.

The group’s lease agreement is set to expire in 2018. Evans said the current agreement generates very little revenue.

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A licensing agreement through June 20, 2020, would generate about $3,000 a month with options for annual 3% increases after 2018 — compared to the current monthly lease amount of $1,500 — which would help the district bank funds for the next field replacement about 10 years from now, Evans told board members.

Robert Friedland, president of Pasadena-based sports nonprofit F.C. Golden State, made a counter offer to the district in a public comment Tuesday, claiming the “woefully low” current agreement with L.A. Premier places the district in a stranglehold.

“You’re Nordstrom with Wal-Mart pricing,” he said, suggesting the district ask L.A. Premier to pay a more reasonable $4,000 monthly with no contract extensions. “If they don’t step up and do the right thing, and you are held to what you have to do for the 2017-18 wrongful contract you are in right now, we will make a donation equal to what your losses are.”

In exchange, Friedland continued, the district would open bids for future use of the field to his and other groups. Responding to his comments, representatives from L.A. Premier reminded school board members of the many positive partnerships the club maintains with local organizations and La Cañada High School.

Board member Ellen Multari advised the board to act with careful consideration before taking any action when the item comes back to a future meeting for a second reading and vote.

“This is a very complicated issue,” she said.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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