Thursday July 19, 2018
Long time, respected, and beloved South Burlington Dolphins Youth Football coach Sam Jackson is also well known for his efforts coaching youth basketball. Earlier this year, Jackson won Positive Coaching Alliance’s (PCA) coveted National Double-Goal Coach Award for his positive impact on youth in sports. The award is presented to coaches who make a difference in their players’ lives. PCA describes recipients of the Double-Goal Coach Award as coaches who “strive to win while also pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports.” Recommended by local officials who nominated Jackson, he is one of 50 coaches nationally recognized with the award.
“Jackson helps his players win on and off the court,” said Beth O’Neill Maloney, executive director of PCA- New England. “By creating a positive, character-building youth sports experience and serving as a Double-Goal Coach, Jackson helps youth develop into better athletes and, more importantly, better people.”
Jackson, who is a resident of South Burlington, coaches for the Vermont Elite and Vermont Dawgs youth basketball teams. The Vermont Elite teams, which are comprised of youth from the greater Burlington area, won Vermont State AAU championships in the sixth through ninth grade divisions in 2017, with the eighth and ninth grade teams competing in the national tournament in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. Student athletes in these teams must maintain a set GPA and the theme of “One Family” which fosters leadership and character development. Earlier this month, Jackson headed south again as his basketball team traveled to Orlando to compete nationally.
Leading his teams to success on the scoreboard, Jackson instills the core values of appreciation, positivity, accountability, sportsmanship, and pride, rewarding players who live those values, and by living those values himself. As one parent said, “Jackson’s motto, ‘One Family,’ is what drives this magic. The players know they are loved and supported.”
With his demeanor described as “animated enthusiasm, love, and energy,” Jackson nurtures his players, their siblings, and their families by highlighting their individual strengths and being in their lives when needed. Rejos Neopaney, one of the team members competing in Orlando, said, “Coach means the world to me. He’s like another father figure to me and when I faced adversity this year — I had cancer — coach was there for me, he’s there for me, they’re all there.”
Having experienced a negative “guns and blazes” football coach, who made him want to quit as a kid, Jackson adopted a positive approach to coaching, saying he believes that a coach can help a kid reach their potential only when there are “no barriers” and “no fear.” His philosophy on mistakes? “We all make mistakes, I just ask my players to do three things when they make a mistake - acknowledge it, learn from it, and forget it,” says Jackson.
Going the extra mile for his players, which might mean attending anything from special education meetings to funerals, Jackson also endeavors to remove barriers by providing free clinics to reach girls and all kids with the opportunity to play, regardless of financial resources. Known for supporting his players’ families and his community as well, Jackson has become a powerful role model for many. As he tells his team members, “Life is bigger than basketball.”
Rene LaBerge, 52-year coach of the South Burlington Dolphins Youth Football program, adds “Sam accomplishes the same goals on the football field with PRIDE, the team logo standing for Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort.”
Jackson, who clearly meets the PCA core concepts of striving to develop better athletes and better people, says, “In my eyes, seeing these guys succeed should be the true measure of my success.”