Life Lessons

Robin Richardson, Deputy Director of Warren County Parks and Recreation Department, holds a copy of the book "Developing Better Athletes, Better People." Richardson has been named a 2015 Development Zone Leadership Fellow by Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) for using high school and youth sports to develop "Better Athletes, Better People." Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — When Robin Richardson first heard about Positive Coaching Alliance, she was intrigued. Once she met with members of PCA and watched them at their clinics, she was hooked.

Richardson, who is the Deputy Director of Warren County Parks and Recreation, heard about the organization from Stacey Wilson in the Warren County soccer association. One of the things that sets PCA apart is the fact that they send someone to do different clinics.

“The fact that they will actually send someone to your site and it’s live interaction,” Richardson said of why she loves PCA. “They came down and did a leadership course. My staff and some of the people off the recreation commission sat through it, and I loved it. I loved what they were about.”

Richardson said they had their first clinic with PCA in November of 2013 and have been doing them ever since. They do around seven a year for coaches and parents. The clinics are mostly for flag football and basketball, and they will be doing one for soccer this week.

PCA recently honored Richardson by naming her a 2015 Development Zone Leadership Fellow for using high school and youth sports to develop “Better Athletes, Better People.”

Richardson said she was surprised and honored by the award.

One of the things that makes Warren County unique with using PCA is that only PCA-certified coaches are allowed to coach Warren County Parks and Recreation teams.

“We mandate that if you want to coach for us, for Parks and Rec, you have to sit through the class as a coach,” Richardson said. “We do the parent thing where if you want to watch your child participate that we ask you to sit through the class. We don’t have too many that won’t. We do have some resistance when they come through the door, and when they come out the door they’re glad they did it.”

The clinics focus a lot on being good role models for the athletes, teaching life lessons and being positive with them as a coach and a parent.

Richardson said she believes it is working well.

“We have seen a difference in the environment with the parents,” Richardson said. “It’s been a nice atmosphere. Once the parent goes to the class, we call them peace keepers. If you’re sitting there and he’s getting loud instead of us addressing them, we expect you to be like ‘Come on, calm down, remember what we’re here for.'”

Richardson said that PCA introduces a second level to the clinics, and she is planning on introducing that this fall.

Coaches also receive a book that tells them more about PCA, and parents get a book called “Positive Sports Parenting.” She said that PCA also sends out a newsletter about once a week, which goes to all the parents and coaches.

Richardson said she is going to try to get more people involved in the organization, including other youth leagues in the area, not affiliated with Warren County Parks and Recreation. She said she would like to talk to other local counties as well as Warren County and Skyline High School.

Richardson is a Warren County graduate, and was a standout basketball and softball player. She was on two Group AA state championship teams at Warren County in 1984 and 1985, and has been inducted into the Lawrence M. “Sweeney” Shiflett Hall of Fame.

She has been working for the Parks and Rec for 24 years, and said it’s been great to see the growth in the area.

Richardson said she thinks it’s important for kids to have role models, just like she did.

“I think it molds you as an individual,” Richardson said of playing sports. “It’s discipline, it’s structure. It can make or break you. It can mold you as an individual. I know some of the biggest influences in my life and I will be proud to say it was [longtime Warren County softball coach] Bob Mason. If it wasn’t for him, I would have had a really hard time getting out of high school.”

Richardson said she loves seeing the kids happy as they come through the Parks and Rec programs, and that’s the part she loves most about her job.

“We [have] a toddling program. … The kids who used to work for me, they’ve got their kids in the program,” Richardson said. “They’re putting stuff on Facebook, and seeing the kids’ excitement the parents’ excitement — I love it.

” … I like Facebook, I’m not a big Facebook fan but it’s probably one of our best advertising ways, because if you read down on the comments it’s ‘Where are you doing that?’ and ‘How do I get signed up, that looks like fun.’ That’s what I like. That’s what I really love, is seeing the kids enjoy themselves.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com