Troy Fowler of Triad Foundation has been a key PCA supporter, especially in the Tampa Bay area. He led Triad Foundation's backing of a multi-year PCA partnership with the area's Hillsborough County School District, which has trained hundreds of coaches and student-athletes. Under Troy's leadership, Triad Foundation also provided seed-funding for the 2014 launch of the PCA-Tampa Bay Chapter.
Jim Thompson: What are the priorities of the Triad Foundation?
Troy Fowler: My wife Elizabeth’s grandfather took advantage of the opportunities that this country provides. He got a good education and he benefited from the free enterprise system. Triad Foundation seeks to provide youth the opportunities they need to succeed and thrive.
JT: You were responsible for bringing Positive Coaching Alliance to Tampa in the first place. How did that come about?
TF: I was very moved when I read about Joe Ehrmann in Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. (Editor: PCA honored Joe Ehrmann with our Ronald L. Jensen Award for Lifetime Achievement on April 12, 2014). I loved the way Joe uses sports as a platform to develop character and help youth develop a vision of what their life could become—having a purpose.
I reached out to Joe to have him speak at what was then called OPBI, The Ophelia Project and The Boys’ Initiative (now Frameworks of Tampa Bay). He gave a terrific talk and I learned about his work with coaches, and began to see the potential impact through sports. But Joe wasn’t focused on developing an organization to expand across the country so I did some further research and learned about PCA.
OPBI invited you to give the keynote address at its annual dinner, the same dinner Joe had spoken at, and I was impressed with what you had to say. And I was intrigued by the local expansion strategy you articulated. PCA had a vision, a curriculum, a platform to launch from. Then Palma Ceia Little League here in Tampa decided to partner with PCA, which was great.
JT: I don’t know if we’ve ever had a potential donor do as much due diligence as you did on PCA. Tell us about that.
TF: I came to visit you in California for two days. I wanted to meet your staff, your leadership team, visit headquarters, not only the leader at the top, but the whole team. I was extremely impressed with your team members. PCA was more than a job to them; it was more of a “calling.”
I also met with Principals and Athletic Directors to see how their schools had been impacted by PCA. Again, I was extremely impressed to see how athletic directors and coaches had embraced it, how coaches shared their “lesson plans” with their teams, how players took them home to parents.
PCA really was using sports, as your tag line says, to develop Better Athletes, Better People.
JT: Triad supported PCA working with the Hillsborough County School District, one of the largest in the country. How did that happen?
TF: The YMCA here gives out two awards annually: the Order of the Red Triangle Award and the Community Impact Award. That year I was awarded the first award and Hillsborough County School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia was awarded the latter. We knew each other before that because Triad had supported initiatives benefitting the schools in Tampa but this time we talked about sports. I told MaryEllen about my experience with PCA and she told me about issues she was having with some of her coaches.
The kindling, so to speak, was already laid, and my comments about what I saw in my visit to PCA was the spark that lit the fire. I said Triad would be interested in funding a partnership between HCSD and PCA, and she said if we did she would mandate that every one of her coaches went through the training. She even paid coaches for their time in going to the workshops.
JT: What kind of impact did that partnership between PCA and Hillsborough County Schools have?
TF: The coaches, especially long-time ones, initially were reluctant. They were afraid that this was going to be some kind of sensitivity training and they felt like they already knew how to coach. But they soon found out that the training was useful and practical. We had experienced coaches saying things like, “I wish I had had this 20 years ago.”
MaryEllen was very pleased with the results of the first year and told me she would like to continue it. She said she had seen fewer issues with coaches, fewer incidents in the field, fewer disciplinary situations and the like. She also told me she had gotten lots of positive feedback from her coaches. We are now in the fourth year of this partnership!
JT: You are now coaching high school basketball. Have PCA frameworks and tools been helpful?
TF: Absolutely. They have helped our team at Plant High School bounce back from adversity. The Emotional Tank idea has been especially helpful and PCA provided lots of examples of ways to fill the E-Tanks of our players. PCA has helped us build our team culture and make it stronger with the Triple-Impact Competitor model of making self, teammates and the game better as each player’s goal.
Even though our season this year ended before we wanted it to with a loss to a lower seeded team, we used a “Locker Room Dinner” after the season to get players talking about their experience and to realize all the things they learned that will help the returning players next year and the graduating players in college and in the rest of their lives.
JT: What gets you excited about a potential donation?
TF: For Elizabeth and me it’s the potential for positive change. I saw in PCA the possibility of changing the entire culture of youth sports. That was a BHAG that really excited me (Editor: BHAG stands for “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, a concept created by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their best-selling business book, Built to Last). I also like that PCA’s curriculum goes beyond sports to helping with how you manage relationships with your kids, your co-workers, etc.
JT: What are your dreams for PCA?
TF: You and I have joked about PCA being an overnight success that took more than 10 years to develop! PCA has shown it can plant a flag in a community (PCA-Tampa Bay is the 11th PCA Chapter) and become known as the go-to organization for youth sports.
If this were a baseball game I would say that PCA is still in the early innings. You now have a lot of people jumping on the bus to achieve a shared vision of youth sports being about developing better athletes and better people. It now seems clear to me that PCA’s goal of changing the culture of youth sports is very achievable. And if we can change youth sports, we can change the entire country.
JT: Troy, Thank you for your leadership in helping the PCA Movement grow!
TF: I greatly appreciate your vision, Jim, and your creating an organization like PCA. Its impact is incredible and the Triad Foundation is so excited to be part of PCA’s success, which will benefit so many youth in this country.