Part I: Development of a Coaching Philosophy - "Beginnings" by Ray Lokar

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DSCF1482_3_3.JPG Guest Post From: Ray Lokar

Coaches are always looking for the secret to a team’s success, and many of them generate long laundry lists of qualities and attributes that they want the team to strive to refine. These values that are most important to them are really the seeds of a coach’s philosophy, and if they are tended to properly, the coach can establish a consistent approach to leading his team. When developed with some intention early in a career, that philosophy can serve as a GPS to guide the coach through the many twists and turns and obstacles that are so much more difficult to travel at the beginning of the journey or the first time it’s traveled. Many years ago, as an aspiring coach, I enrolled at Cal Poly University in California. If that institution of higher learning sounds familiar to any diehard trivia junkies, it is one of the earlier coaching stops of Chicago Bulls General Manager, Gar Foreman.  As a freshman Physical Education major (they now call it Kinesiology to make it sound smarter), I registered in a coaching theory class that was taught by Assistant Basketball Coach, Alan Van Winkle. Coach Van Winkle spent quite a bit of time talking about coaching styles and the kind of coach you wanted to be. I remember at the end of a paper he had us write on coaching philosophy, I wrote the following conclusion:

If a coach:
1) Cares about his players on and off the court
2) Proves that he is knowledgeable and
3) Works as hard as he expects them to
then players will:
1) Try to be good teammates
2) Listen and try to learn, and
3) Give their best effort

Coach Van Winkle moved on, as is the nomad life of many a basketball coach, and eventually became the Head Coach at Southern Illinois University. When he left after my first year, we were blessed with some other great Assistant Coaches at Cal Poly who also taught coaching theory classes. Each year I was compelled to take the same class with a different teacher in this quest for coaching knowledge. I registered for the class again as a sophomore when Andy Stoglin replaced Van Winkle. Coach Stoglin had played on the famous Texas Western team depicted in the movie “Glory Road,” and had toured with the Harlem Globetrotters. Stoglin has gone on to coach at many stops, including Jackson St and professionally in the ABA, NBA-D League, and in Mexico. Coach Stoglin spent much time talking about player/coach relationships and motivation. When Stoglin moved on to San Diego St and then to Arkansas, the Broncos were fortunate to hire a young, energetic Dave Bollwinkel… and I signed up for the class once again. Coach Bollwinkel played football at Princeton, graduated from Cal Berkely and was the kind of guy who, if you told him he was a “Type-A” personality – he’d be upset he wasn’t an A+.  He was very thorough and we came away from that class with a guideline for managing a program from top to bottom.  Dave moved on to the University of Oregon as an Assistant and shortly thereafter I began my high school coaching career. It was now time to put much of that coaching information to use. I did so with quite a bit of trial and error, and some years later Coach Bollwinkel returned as the Head Coach at Cal Poly just as I became an assistant coach at nearby Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. (For those trivia buffs, Pomona-Pitzer is the DIII school where Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs coached just prior to his jump to the NBA. He moved on, the Assistant Coach moved up, and I moved in.)  On the recruiting trail, Coach Bollwinkel and I found each other at many of the same locales, sometimes recruiting the same players – other times evaluating teammates, and he showed me the college recruiting ropes. Before he moved up to take advantage of some bigger Division I opportunities, I worked several of his basketball camps and picked up some great ideas for camps and large groups that I put to use for several years on the camp circuit. I felt I was amassing just what I needed to succeed in the coaching profession. A project that I was involved in very early with Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) was a new one-day offering we were developing titled the Mentor Coach Institute (MCI). In fact, my first introduction to PCA was when I was invited to the pilot for the MCI. I remember answering a few questions the morning of the first day and at a break the Executive Director, Jim Thompson, asked to talk with me at lunch. Boy, did I think I said something wrong! Instead he passed along a number of a local representative and a mere few weeks later I was in Palo Alto for my first Quarterly Meeting as a full time staff member. Working on the Mentor Coach Institute over the next couple years I had plenty of time to reflect on the many mentors I had in my coaching career. The Institute was designed to help organizations develop, support and retain coaches through training of mentors who help new coaches develop their own philosophy and master the challenges of the job. I certainly had mentors that helped me do that. (You could find out about this great program by clicking the logo below.) mentorcoach.jpg That initial foray into coach education sparked a fire to learn, so I did what all new coaches should do. I attended as many clinics as I could to gather even more information. During this time some great coaches and mentors challenged me to fill a “coaching toolbox” and I would suggest all coaches at any level try to develop their own.  If all you have is a hammer and a screwdriver, there are a whole lot of jobs that are going to be tough to face. I collected more and more tools to the point that I then had so much information it became this “manifesto” of coaching info that I was very proud of and some of which ultimately became  I thought this was my “coaching philosophy” and I would give a 3-ring binder full of this information to assistant coaches for them to implement in our program on a year-round basis. Coaches who I learned from always repeated the oft-used axiom; “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and I wanted all of our teams in the program to be very thorough and prepared. I was fortunate to also have some very hard working, loyal, and committed assistant coaches to help implement those ideas, because no matter how much you know, you can’t get everything done alone. Whenever I would take over a program, it seemed the team improved very quickly, performed well, finished with a much better record than the year before I arrived, and we were fortunate to eventually win a California Interscholastic Federation Championship. I figured that had to be attributed to the great teachers I had along the way and all the knowledge they shared – right? CIF.jpg Often in an attempt to build on something good and get back to the pinnacle of success, we are tempted to do more of what we did to get there the first time. I call it “The Lottle Principle.” If a little is good…a “lottle” must be better. So we did more…and more…and more. I should have learned this lesson in my very first job in high school at a local pizza take-out joint. I had just been promoted from delivery to cook and wanted to bring over a pizza after work to some of my friends. I took an extra large dough ball, pounded it, stretched it, tossed it, and topped it… with nearly double everything. After cooking it for the requisite 8 minutes and sliding it into the pizza box, when I arrived at my destination, much to my dismay, immense quantities of grease had seeped through the bottom of the box onto the front seat and the pizza was a gob of inedible goo. More is not always better, and I forgot the most basic principle of any philosophy or mission statement… K.I.S.S. “Keep it Simple Stupid!”  In the middle of a practice shortly after our championship, I was reminded of some of these old lessons. Find out about my “flashback to the ’70’s” in the next installment… Part II:  Development of a Coaching Philosophy – “Manifesto to Mantra” “Ray Lokar, Lead Trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance, provides today’s article. “Coach Lok” will be a frequent contributor to “The Athlete’s Sports Experience”. You can follow Ray at:

Leave a comment