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What Do Good Teachers and Good Coaches Have in Common?

ISACS Convention Recap - Part 1

I was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. The next two posts of this series will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. The first talk compares the traits necessary to be a good coach and a good teacher and the second gives you a window into what good coaching should look like.

The theme of the second day of the convention was preparing our children for the Innovation Era. An era where traditional college degrees and information gained is not as important as creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, the ability to work collaboratively and desire or passion necessary to solve today’s challenges (Tony Wagner: Preparing Kids for the Innovation Era).

Those of you that have been following my blog, success at Locker Soccer Academy and my speaking endeavors (Steve’s TEDx Talk: Youth Sports: The Fast Lane to Retirement) will notice a similarity in childhood development philosophies. They are both based on a solid foundation of FUN.

This foundation inspires children to develop an intrinsic passion which in turn will lead to the proper development of traits and skills, like the ability to overcome adversity or resilience. These skills are developed through overcoming failures and are motivated from within rather than from outside forces like those seen in a traditional educational system.

So what do good teachers and good coaches have in common? They create an environment that is conducive to FUN, positive, challenging, honest, caring and strives for excellence. These environments may differ depending on the sport or the age group of children a teacher or a coach is tasked with leading, but the children should take away things such as improved decision-making skills, confidence, empathy, curiosity, and persistence. Great teachers and coaches help empower kids through play, inspiring passion, and developing purpose. These are the environments and traits necessary for our children to discover their real interests, understand the value of depth of knowledge rather than breadth, develop real skills and be able to adapt those skills to any situation.

The Knowledge Economy has come and gone and the Innovation Era, whether we like it or not it is upon us. It is our duty as teachers, coaches and parents to prepare our children to succeed.

- Steve Locker



The Road To TEDx (Final Chapter)

Photo courtesy of TedxColumbus

Photo courtesy of TedxColumbus

After months and months of planning and preparation, TEDx Columbus is now complete. Picking up where my last report on TEDx left off, I spent the final few days practicing my talk with a few groups. I want to thank the folks at Village Academy and the Wellington School for providing me the chance to present my talk, as well as all of the parents at Locker Soccer Academy who observed and provided valuable input. Thank you!

As I attended the main rehearsal at the Capital Theater on Thursday, it was an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with our surroundings for the main event on Friday. Having practiced my talk so many times, I was surprisingly relaxed. This was somewhat opposite many of the speakers who seemed to be frantically trying to make last minute preparations on their talks.

As I went on stage to present my talk to a handful of observers, I was feeling pretty comfortable. I got through about two-thirds of my talk, and inexplicably, I froze. I could not remember my place and spent the next two minutes, which seemed like hours, trying to figure out where I left off. While frustrated, I took this as a positive sign that I needed to just tighten up my talk. I spent that evening and the next morning going over my talk, and even writing out the beginning sections of each part of the talk.

As I drove to the Capital Theater on Friday morning, I had a healthy level of nervousness, a level that I believe kept me sharp. As all of the speakers gathered in the “green” room, you could cut the air with the tension. Everyone was nervous. Again, I felt ready.

When it was my turn to speak, I walked onto the stage, and with a bit of nervousness, I began my talk. Amazingly, with all of the lights, it was difficult to see the audience. I recognized my family sitting near the very front, and kept glancing towards them for reassurance. While I could not see their expressions, it was comforting to know that they were there.

My talk seemed to be well received, especially some of the funny anecdotes that helped to tell my story. The audience was very supportive and seemed to enjoy the message. With only one other talk after mine, we found ourselves very quickly in the first intermission. As we joined the audience in the lobby for refreshments, I quickly found my family and friends. When I told my wife that it was nice to have her in the front row, she responded by saying that they were actually seated several levels up. I knew the lights were bright and it was difficult to see the audience, but was shocked to learn that I wasn’t even looking at my family as I had thought.

I joined the audience for the remainder of the talks, and as usual, was completely blown away by the passion and delivery of all of the talks. It was an amazing day. With each passing talk, my level of relaxation grew. I could still feel the anxiety leaving my body into the next day, and as our family boarded a plane for Sedona, Arizona, I was reaching new levels of peace with each passing moment. The hikes we enjoyed the past few days have been great, and it’s wonderful to be returning to normal.

I can’t wait to see all of the talks on the TEDx Columbus website in the next few weeks. Ruth Milligan did an incredible job organizing the entire event.

I hope the conversations continue.

- Steve Locker



TedxColumbus Live Stream

If you couldn't get tickets to 2015 TEDxColumbus Disruption don't worry! Grab your friends, your family, pull up a chair and watch me talk about the importance of patience in youth sports via live web stream. The live stream starts this Friday (11/20) at 1 PM ET and can be viewed on Don't miss it and please share this link.



The Road To TEDx (Part 3)


Only four days until TEDx Columbus. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, with all of my time devoted to the talk. I think that I could give a two hour talk with 20 minutes of preparation. However, my thirteen minute talk has probably taken over sixty hours of work so far. Funny how that works!

There have been about 7-8 drafts, and one recorded talk went for more than 25 minutes. Too long. My subject (Patience in Youth Sports) has so much potential, but it also has so much material. The absolute biggest challenge has been determining which material to leave out. I love all of the discussion points and solutions, as well as the anecdotes. But TED is to be precise, tight, and to the point.

Amazingly, I have given about nine or ten practice talks so far. It’s incredible how much these practices have helped. The early practice talks were well received, but certainly very rough in their presentation. My audience, mostly parents at the academy, had great suggestions and ideas on ways to sharpen the talk. With each practice, I have gained in confidence and am very close to the final product.

A few days ago, I had my final coaching session with Ruth Milligan and Meagan Buren (also a speech coach) at Ruth’s office. It was the perfect atmosphere to present my talk and allow them to provide their expert feedback on where I was in the bigger picture. I felt very relaxed and comfortable, and the talk went well. Both Ruth and Meagan felt that I was very close to being ready to present my talk. Like an athlete gaining positive feedback from his coach, my level of confidence was increasing.

Their feedback was mostly in the form of tweaks that I should consider in hopes of presenting my points so that they are clearly understood. I have a few practices planned for Tuesday, one for Wednesday, and then our formal rehearsal is set for Thursday at the Capital Theater. As the momentum builds, I am so excited for Friday to arrive.

TEDx Columbus is sold out, so the energy will be amazing. Be sure to check the TEDx Columbus website later in the week for further information on how you can watch the talks. The list of speakers is fabulous and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s talk! Enjoy!

- Steve Locker



The Road To TED (Part 2)

Road to Ted 2

Nineteen days until TEDxColumbus, and things are definitely heating up. I had my second coaching session with Ruth a few days ago, with the final coaching session scheduled for November 12th.

Here’s the bottom line: The talk should be in its’ final form right now. The next few weeks are critical for refining and fine tuning the talk. Our coaching session last Thursday was really helpful, as Ruth was able to help me focus on exactly what I need to do at this point. At the time of our second coaching session, I had narrowed down my theme and had outlined the scope of the talk. The past few days have been spent putting shape into the talk, and I feel very close to having a product that I can begin to fine tune.

With over 30 years of coaching experience to draw from, we (Ruth & I) feel it is critically important to highlight my experiences and observations and illustrate how they support my hypothesis. With the title of the talk decided, “Youth Sports: The Fast Lane To Retirement”, I can share a few details, but I certainly don’t want to give too much away at this point.

Through my work, I have seen how a patient approach to working with children allows them to have an infinitely better experience in sports. Our current system defines success by wins and losses, and that is wrong on every level when applied to youth sports. Sure, we all want our kids to be successful, but what does that mean? For me, I want the children in my program to first love being active and healthy. I want them to be good sports. These kind of qualities are not things that you teach in one training session. They require years of consistent work with constant reminders about caring, fairness, work ethic, responsibility, and so on. Most of us know that anything that is truly valuable requires hard work and cannot be attained easily.

I could teach a child how to kick a soccer ball in one training session. I could teach a child where to run in a particular part of the field in one training session. But to put a child into an environment which allows for him/her to develop a keen sense of self, an ability to handle adversity, a willingness to take risks, and the skill of making good decisions.....these attributes take years of hard work. This is where I am going!

I will begin recording my talk in the next couple of days and get that to Ruth right away. I look forward to her input and direction once she has a chance to examine it. I have several practice talks planned over the next couple of weeks, and combined with my planned repetitions, I am excited to progress towards November 20th.

As I was driving in my car this morning, I was thinking how well my own athletic career has prepared me for this opportunity. As a coach, there was always a sense of nervousness about an upcoming, important contest. I was always able to relax in the face of this trepidation because I knew that I had prepared well. I had put myself and my players into so many situations where they were forced to make hundreds and thousands of decisions just like in the game. While the nervousness is present, the excitement is overwhelming. I can’t wait.

- Steve Locker



Could The 75% Of Children Who Quit Sports By The Age Of 13 Quite Possibly Be The Lucky Ones?

for parents

As I am preparing for my TEDxColumbus talk and fine tuning my presentation I began thinking about what inspired me to focus on youth sports in the first place. Here are my thoughts:

Years ago, when I first learned of this alarming statistic, all of my energy and passion had been directed towards creating an environment and the programming that would help keep more kids in sports. I’m very happy to say that our work has been very successful, and that I am seeing those drop out rates change drastically, at least within our programs.

If 75% are quitting, that leaves only 25% of our children to make up our high school and intercollegiate programs. When you think about the caliber of talent necessary to succeed at these levels, that doesn’t sound so out of proportion. As I now learn what is happening with these student athletes as they enter into the collegiate ranks, I believe that we have cause to be seriously concerned on another level.

First, I refer to an article by Martha Anna Tudor, called Tough. In this report, the author examines an interesting dynamic within the collegiate setting where record numbers of students are in need of counseling, and struggling with a wide variety of psychological and emotional disorders, most notably, depression. Schools are taxed incredibly in an attempt to keep up with the growing need to increase their support services in their counseling centers. The cause for these problems, in part, stems from our children growing up in an environment where they were constantly praised for fairly ordinary achievement. Now that they are in college and the competition for grades is revved up, they cannot cope with the fact that they are getting a “B”, or that they are no longer the best in their class. The psychological toll on these young adults is pushing many of them towards drugs and medications. Some prescribed, some not.

At a time when I believed the huge drop out rates would ultimately have this incredible taxing effect on our health care system, it’s not heart disease and diabetes that is creeping in (just yet), but the initial impact is actually coming in the form of psychological disorders. Ultimately, I do think the lack of fitness and athletic participation will lead to these aforementioned maladies.

In a September (2015) article in Sports Illustrated, called Abuse of Power, the author addresses what seems like an epidemic of abusive coaches within the collegiate ranks. It is pointed out that most of this is in the form of psychological abuse. In the past, we would only hear about those cases of physical abuse, but perhaps due to social media, we are hearing more and more about the effects of emotional and psychological abuse. It may or may not be a new problem, but it is certainly gaining awareness. In the article, it is suggested that perhaps our travel-team world is responsible for producing athletes who need more emotional support, or perhaps the helicopter parents cannot loosen their bond so that the college coaches can inject the discipline necessary for success at this level. I am of the opinion that many of our youngathletes do not possess the necessary mental toughness needed to succeed at this level.

According to the American College Health Association, 41% of male athletes had “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” and 52% “felt overwhelming anxiety.” The figures for women jump to 45% and 59%, respectively. Further, 14% of athletes said they had “seriously considered suicide,” with 6% having attempted it. A 2013 Georgetown University Medical Center study reported depression as being twice as prevalent among active athletes than those who graduated.

With a recent report that 25% of college athletes quit in their first year, one has to wonder who is driving this bus? Is it the parents or the kids? For me, it’s pretty clear that many of these athletes are simply trying to fulfill the dreams of their parents, and once they arrive on campus, they feel liberated enough, and perhaps courageous enough, to quit.

So, now we are faced with this incredible dilemma....are our children worse off if they quit or what is the likelihood that they will suffer the emotional damages described above if they stay in sports? While these seem like dismal options, I believe there is still plenty of hope for the positive aspects of sports participation to shine through.

At the root of the problem, we have parents who are fearful that if they don’t provide their children all of the necessary opportunities for success, that they may get left behind. We know that this extrinsic motivation does not work. This is where we must re-educate our parents and make them part of the solution. There are better ways.

- Steve Locker



The Road To TEDxColumbus

Below is a brief overview of what TEDx is all about:

Depending on your level of understanding and experience with TED Talks, I’ve decided to devote my blog over the course of the next few weeks to sharing with you the process that has landed me on the list of speakers at this years TEDx event in Columbus.

About this time last year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nancy Kramer (Resource/Ammirati) and sharing with her my passion for effecting change in the world of youth sports. With Nancy’s incredible reputation for success, I was hoping to gain some strategic insight on how to best go about impacting this segment of our sports culture. At one point during our conversation, Nancy looked at me and said, “You need to do a TED Talk.”

Knowing the impact and reach that TED has, I was certainly flattered that Nancy felt my story was worth sharing at this level. It wasn’t long after this meeting that Nancy made the introduction to her partner at TEDx, Ruth Milligan. Ruth is the engine that makes TEDxColumbus fly.

After meeting Ruth last winter, I was offered the opportunity to take a speaking course with Ruth over a 12 week period last spring. Having been a collegiate coach for so many years, I can tell you that I was very comfortable with public speaking. This was different. Ruth put us through a program that truly made you think (& squirm) and forced you to look at sharing your story in a whole new way. The TED way. I’ll just say this, Ruth is the rock star of storytelling!

The next step to be considered for a spot as a speaker at TEDxColumbus was to file an application, and to include a short video on your subject. Not nearly as comfortable producing a video as I am in front of an audience, I found this task a bit more challenging. With the video due by June 30th, my month of June was packed with soccer camps, coaches from Italy visiting, and the need to get 160 children registered and carded for fall soccer. It was crazy.

I decided that I would wait until the last week of June and produce the video while on vacation in Colorado. This was a sound plan in every way except one. It worked well with my schedule and peace of mind, but failed to take into account the extreme elevation and the impact that it had on my breathing. At 9,500 feet, I was appalled that my video showed me gasping for air with every breath. It was not a work that I was particularly proud of. Once all of the applications were in, we were told that the committee would meet in early August and we would be notified shortly thereafter as to their decision. I remember getting my email from Ruth, and being absolutely elated that I had been selected. What a great honor!

The next challenge for me was to determine what I should select as my topic. With so many issues at play in our world of youth sports, I was truly anxious about where to go with this. I needed to determine what the question was that my audience most wanted answered. What was the “take away?” Because I so passionately want to impact change, I want my talk to inspire, provoke, and most importantly, disrupt the way we look at things as it pertains to our current system.

We have just begun the coaching sessions with Ruth (there will be three), and they are like counseling sessions....lots of self examination. Ruth truly knows how to get you to step back and assess the process. In the back of my mind, while I am a bit scared, I have this overriding calm and confidence that Ruth will not allow me to fail. Failing has never really been an option anyway.

Please stay tuned as I delve deeper into the topic and the process of producing what I hope will be an incredibly compelling talk on November 20th, with a hope of continuing the conversation at many levels.

- Steve Locker