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Ray Lokar (Coach and Positive Coaching Alliance Trainer): Young Athletes Will Play With Joy If Adults Let Them

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 Editors note; The following article originally ran in June 2012 for our “Sports Dads Month” focus on dads we identified as helping to keep all kids safe.

With MomsTEAM's June Is Sports Dads Month winding down, we hear from longtime coach and trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance, Ray Lokar:

MomsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?Ray Lokar and family

Lokar: I played football, basketball, and baseball as a youngster with varying levels of success. I was a part a couple City Championships in baseball, then went to a high school with a big-time football tradition - so my basketball career took the front seat very quickly.

MomsTEAM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports dad?

Lokar: The most rewarding aspect of being a sports dad has been seeing my three older children use life lessons that I know they learned while enjoying themselves on the fields of play to propel them to stellar academic careers and professions, after I got the chance to watch them all compete collegiately. I hope my young son, who is now navigating youth sports, experiences the same joyous education along his journey.

MomsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?

Lokar: I have finally come to realize that young athletes enjoy the experience as much as you allow them to because, to them, it is only a game. When you focus on the positives of their effort and attitude, rather than mistakes, the results or the score, they realize they are just playing a game and play with great joy. If they are enjoying what they're doing, they will do it more often, and if they do it more often with great effort and attitude, they'll get better - which is what all coaches and parents want anyway!

MomsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?

Lokar: Hopefully, my youngest is learning what my three oldest ones learned. You always try to give your very best effort on every play every day and do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do, while being the best teammate you can be by treating others the way they each need to be treated.

MomsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?

Lokar: I'd hope that switch would educate coaches and parents to enjoy the moment - that it goes by in a flash - and avoid making comparisons with other teams and players. Their sons, daughters, or players don't have to be as good as someone else's son or daughter or as good as some other team, as long as they are trying to be as good as they can be. Those comparisons are the root of Coach/Parent confrontations over playing time, positions, or All Star selections, not to mention the trauma of winning or losing in a game or season. Learning to embrace the struggle of improvement is something that helps young athletes forever.

MomsTEAM: Brag a little: what have you done to make sports better for kids? Please share.

Lokar: For over 30 years, I've been a coach, administrator, and sports parent at every level:  youth, high school and collegiate. I am presently a Little League coach, City Director of our local Chapter of National Junior Basketball, a high school basketball coach, and national speaker for the Positive Coaching Alliance. My three oldest children graduated with honors from their respective colleges, so I  think I at least got them right! My youngest appears to be on the same relative path. I hope the players on my teams and in my leagues learn the same lessons that may set them on a positive trajectory. I believe that it's our responsibility to not only be in the moment and coach our players in the manner in which they deserve, but to share those principles with the next generation of coaches as well. And so on.

Ray Lokar is a father of four, Southern California Senior Lead Trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance and Head Basketball Coach at Fairmont Prep Academy, in Anaheim, California.  He has coached a variety of sports over the last 30 years at the youth, high school, and college levels, including Head Basketball Coach of the 2002 California Interscholastic Federation Champion Bishop Amat High School.  Ray is a Past-President of the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association ( SCIBCA) and a former Athletic Director & Activities Director at the high school & middle school levels.  He is currently Director of Basketball4all.net, which provides a variety of lessons, camps, clinics, competitions, and events, author of the book, 101 Basketball Tips.  His youth basketball & baseball DVD series are available at www.ChampionshipProductions.com, and you can follow Ray on Twitter @CoachLok.