Winning Ways

Brad Jackson first attended Young Life’s Malibu Club in the summer of 1969. In true Young Life fashion, the mission was “going to where Brad was” by offering a basketball camp in the midst of that camp week. Forty-three years later, Jackson is the head coach of the 2012 Division II Men’s Basketball National Champions, the Western Washington Vikings. He’s also been named DII Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and has 518 wins, making him the third winningest coach in Washington State history.

Growing up in Vancouver, Wash., Jackson was introduced to Young Life as a sophomore in 1968. That year, Jackson learned about a special week of camp at Malibu, which offered a basketball emphasis during free time, run by 1960s’ basketball legends, John Block, Paul and Bill Westphal, and Dick Barnett.

In 1970, Jackson traveled with the mission as part of the first Young Life basketball tour. Led by ex-professional basketball player, Keith Swagerty, the Young Life team traveled to Sydney, Brisbane, New Zealand and Fiji. For six weeks, Jackson served as an ambassador for Young Life, running a camp for teenagers in Australia while growing in his faith, leadership and basketball skills. Jackson said, “I saw people’s lives change. I was always a leader, but having the opportunity to go and put on a camp and be in a position of leadership, and to be around people who thought like that was very significant for me.”

After high school, Jackson attended Washington State University (WSU). While tending to his studies, and playing guard for the Cougars, Jackson still found time to stay involved with Young Life by leading Young Life at Pullman High School. It was also during this era that Young Life’s college ministry began at WSU. “My freshman year there were more than 1,000 kids coming!” he said. Upon Jackson’s graduation, Swagerty hired him as the assistant men’s coach at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), where he received excellent coaching experience and met his wife, Debbie.

In 1985, Jackson began his career as the men’s basketball coach at Western Washington University. Since then, the Jacksons have served Young Life via the local committee, fund-raising events, mentoring leaders and starting WyldLife at a local middle school. However, the Jacksons, and all who know them, would agree their favorite niche within Young Life is serving as adult guest hosts at Malibu Club, a role they’ve now served in 10 times. Malibu Camp Manager Harold Richert said, “Brad and Debbie are two of the greatest people I know. They are so involved in what they do, and it has spilled over to us at Malibu. Every year they bring quality folks instrumental to the growth of Young Life and they’re committed to their guests’ Christian walk. They’re awesome people who are great examples for all of us.”

In the midst of this tremendous success, Jackson was asked if his experiences with Young Life influence his role as a coach, husband and father. Jackson replied, “I think one of the biggest things God has provided through Young Life is in terms of living out my faith in my daily life. The foundation was set during those years in Vancouver, on a trip to Australia, even at SPU working with people I met through Young Life. The whole concept of relational ministry, earning the right to be heard, rings true for me. The modeling, the understanding of unconditional love, the non-judgmental interaction, the opportunity during my high school and college days to interact with lots of different people; those became foundational aspects of how I live.”

Brad Jackson is one of thousands of alumni still intimately involved with Young Life. Visit the Alumni and Friends website to join, update your information and reconnect with your Young Life friends!