By STEVE KRAH
Coaches and educators are busy people.
They are balancing practice schedules, lineups, game strategy, lesson plans and more.
Lending a helping hand in the areas of character development, servant leadership and other positive behaviors is where NG3 — headquartered in Atlanta — comes in.
The “NG” stands for Next Generation and the “3” stands for Character, Community and Change.
Jason Thompson, who has launched N3 in Indiana with Jimtown High School as the pilot in 2017-18 after spending a year learning the program while serving a school in Georgia, explains the C’s a little more.
“Character means do what you say,” says Thompson. “Community means serving others. Change means bring positive change wherever you go.”
A non-profit, faith-based organization, NG3 invests in the lives of high school students, spending time with them and teaching them valuable lessons while providing mentors in small gatherings known as “Huddle Groups.”
While Thompson and other volunteer mentors have been ever-present at Jimtown, he has also met with student-athletes at other schools in northern Indiana, including Fairfield and Goshen and has established partnerships with Jimtown, NorthWood and Triton for 2018-19.
“My hope is to add at least two schools a year moving forward,” says Thompson, a former football player at Concord High School and Anderson University who established a sports ministry at Nappanee Missionary Church. “We will have a person at each school we work with — people who are invested and embedded in those communities. Long-term, I’d like to see NG3 in every school in Indiana. That’s a big goal.
“NG3 is coming along at just the right time. I am passionate about helping people and teams reach their potential.
“We want to be present on school campuses on a weekly basis. A lot of students are probably skeptical at first. They have adults in their lives that are here and gone. It may be a parent or a coach.
“We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We aim to be there for the long haul and model all those character traits for them.”
This spring, Thompson has been able to work closely with the Jimtown baseball program. He is at practice several times a week and makes it a point to be at home varsity and junior varsity contests. “We continue to build relationships. We are there be an encouragers.
“Coaches find that ‘other voice’ is beneficial to them.”
Thompson, who holds bachelor of education and master of ministries degrees from Bethel College, has helped coordinate service projects for Jimtown coach Darin Mast and other Jimmies teams and classes.
“We come in and serve,” says Thompson. “It’s about being available, being present.”
School-wide, Jimtown has about 50 kids involved in huddle groups.
These groups of generally 10 students or less meet once a week, usually in the home of one of the group’s members.
“You can get real,” says Mast of the small group. “You can do life.
“It builds much more community.”
Thompson says the goal is to get to the point that huddle groups can be offered to all students.
Mast has known Thompson for years from serving with him at NMC.
“He’s like a spiritual/mental athletic trainer so to speak,” says Mast of Thompson. “It means something to him.”
Mast continues to compliment NG3.
“I really like the concept of what they’re doing,” says Mast. “The whole point of a team anyway is bringing that togetherness.”
Mast likes taking time to build character and addressing concepts like integrity, commitment, honesty, social media, family, trust, loyalty, perseverance, teamwork and excellence and having the students define those traits and what it means when they add or subtract those from their lives. “So much time is spent with X’s and O’s and the ins and outs of the sport.
“I felt like it was something that needed to be addressed and now we have an avenue to do that.”
Mast said that coaches are ultimately graded on their won-loss record.
“That’s the No. 1 priority,” says Mast. “But I’ve failed them as a coach if I haven’t helped them become productive members of society — great workers, husbands and dads.
“It’s all that stuff goes into character development and leadership with NG3.”
Mast says the IHSAA’s InsideOut Initiative of leaving the “win-at-all-costs” culture goes hand-in-hand with the ideals of NG3.
Darin Kauffman first heard Thompson speak to the Fairfield girls basketball team during their run to the regional last winter. Darin’s wife, Lindsay, is an assistant to Falcons head coach Brodie Garber.
Kauffman, who is in his first season as head baseball coach at Fairfield, invited Thompson to address his players and plans to do it again.
“I have athletes who have not played baseball in awhile,” says Kauffman. “I wanted them to hear about being a great teammate and how we can mesh and play together. And hear it from someone outside
“(Thompson) is a great speaker. He talks at their level. I think the guys got a lot out of it.
“It’s a great program. I’m glad we have that in our area.”
Thompson sends a weekly email called “Coaches are Leaders” to a list of about 75 with tips and links to articles that reinforce the NG3 model.
“I want to find ways to serve coaches,” says Thompson.
Tim Dawson, an Indiana High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was Thompson’s coach at Concord.
“He brought passion and excitement,” says Thompson of Dawson. “He used football to teach so many life lessons.”
As he headed off to college, Thompson thought he was going to be a teacher and coach.
“I’ve come full circle,” says Thompson. “This almost better than coaching. I get to work with athletes across teams.”
Helping his along the way is his family.
Jason and Rachael Thompson, who will be married 16 years in May, have two daughters Haley (11) and Natalie (7). The family resides in Nappanee. Rachael Thompson, a Goshen High School graduate, teaches at Prairie View Elementary School in Goshen.
Jason Thompson (second from left in back row) spends time in the dugout with the Jimtown High School baseball team. Thompson is the Indiana director for NG3 and has spent the 2017-18 school year embedded with Jimtown students.
NG3 Indiana director Jason Thompson addresses baseball players at Fairfield High School.