Coach Derek Brings Sports Lessons to Life for Children of All Ages
By Carly Zinderman Oct. 24th, 2017
Derek Locklear isn’t your typical coach. The former baseball player has made a career out of giving back to kids so that they can learn important lessons both on and off the field. After feeling out of sync from moving across the country to Los Angeles fifteen years ago, Coach Derek remembered that the one place he always felt at home was when he was playing sports and working as part of a team. From just a few schoolkids, his Coach Derek and Let’s Give Them a Shot programs have grown to encompass much of the greater Los Angeles area. Coach Derek believes that no matter what side of town kids live on, they can all benefit from the lessons and opportunities that sports present. To that end, he has worked to offer baseball, basketball, soccer, football, tennis and volleyball to kids from the ages of 2 to 14. JustLuxe talked to Coach Derek about his unique programs to see how he hopes to expand his programs from Los Angeles to the rest of the nation so that every kid gets a shot at having fun.
JustLuxe: How long has the Coach Derek program existed?
Derek Locklear: I started Coach Derek Inc. to serve the Westside of Los Angeles as a for-profit in 2002. Seeing the need to serve the Eastside of Los Angeles, I created Let’s Give them a Shot in 2004. But personally, I started working with children in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1992.
JL: How did the program come about?
DL: I drove across the country from Charlotte, North Carolina, not really sure what was going to happen; I got out to LA and was literally a fish out of water. Struggling to find my flow, I hopped from job to job and realized that I needed to get back into my purpose of working with children. I started working at the Spectrum Club in El Segundo, and from there branched out on my own with five children in Hermosa Valley Park. Years later, we serve over 1,100 kids a week with a staff of 20 individuals. At first, I wanted to name my company Kids First, based on the idea that kids come first, winning comes second, but that name was taken, so my friend suggested that I call it Coach Derek. Coach Derek Inc. was formed in 2002.
JL: What sports do you coach?
DL: We serve boys and girls ages 2-14 with a variety of sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, football, tennis and volleyball. At Let’s Give them a Shot, we coach football, basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis.
JL: Where are you based?
DL: From the Westside of Los Angles all the way to South Central.
JL: What is the philosophy behind the organization?
DL: We coach to teach and not to win. We believe that sports and competition reveal one’s character, it doesn’t develop it. So what do you want to show today?
JL: Tell me about the after-school program. Why was it created? Does it differ from school to school?
DL: We created an after-school program called the Alpha Leadership Academy based on the idea that we are going to take the bottom 20 percent of second graders and get them at or above their reading grade level. We are going to follow that second group all the way into college, adding an additional second grade each year. We just completed our second year, and that program is located in Watts, California.
JL: How do sports help enrich a child’s life?
DL: Through sports, you learn how to win and you can learn how to lose. Through sports you can take responsibility and accountability. Through sports, you learn that you are a small part of a bigger picture. Through sports you learn to understand the concept that you get out what you put in. Sports will teach you grit and it will also give you social capital.
JL: What is the Kids Club Camp?
DL: The Kids Club Camp serves children that want more than just sports. We are able to introduce enrichment pieces such as arts and crafts, nature walks and community service projects.
JL: Tell me about your non-profit organization Let’s Give them a Shot! When and why was it formed?
DL: A teacher by the name of Ms. Megan came to me during my classes and asked if I could help her school because they did not have any P.E. programs. They barely had any equipment, and she said that anything I could do would be greatly appreciated. So I met with the school, I cleared my Fridays, and I would show up every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with a bag of balls and some cones, and Let’s Give Them a Shot was born! The location was Manhattan Place Elementary in Inglewood, California, and is based on the idea that everyone deserves an opportunity to learn how to play sports, whether than can afford it or not. It is also based on the idea that in order for me to keep what I have, I should seek to give it away.
JL: What has surprised you most about working with kids?
DL: The first thing that comes to mind is how much they teach me.
JL: Where do you see the Coach Derrick program going in the future?
DL: I would love to see it across the country, helping others, serving other communities through positive competition and a lot of love.
Carly Zinderman is a Senior Staff Writer for JustLuxe, based just outside of Los Angeles, CA. Since graduating from Occidental College with a degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies, she has written on a variety of topics for books, magazines and online publications