Coach Derek: Giving Kids A Shot
By Donna Letterese Nov 10, 2017
Derek Locklear has been helping children for his entire adult life. His for-profit company “Coach Derek Inc.” began working with children in West Los Angeles in 2002, and his non-profit “Let’s Give Them a Shot” began working with children on the East side of Los Angeles in 2004.
Currently, the company helps children all the way from the West side to South Los Angeles. Initially, his journey with athletic education began back in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1992.
Locklear was just eighteen years old when he began coaching young people, working part-time as a summer athletics instructor at a local YMCA. When he decided to take the plunge and move cross country, he realized what his calling was.
“I was struggling to find my flow, hopping from job to job,” Locklear reminisces. “I realized that I needed to get back onto 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 5 children in Hermosa Valley Park.”
Years later, Locklear’s company has come to have a staff of twenty, and over 1,100 children a week are served. The athletic instruction provided by Coach Derek Inc. truly runs the gamut. Soccer, baseball, football, flag football, and even a bit of volleyball are among the sports children can explore.
Both boys and girls can participate. The sports classes service children from ages two to fourteen. For the toddlers, the system is that the activities change relatively rapidly to meet their young attention spans. “We rock it out for about forty-five minutes, they run around, and most importantly, they have fun,” Locklear beams.
Locklear emphasizes that at Coach Derek Inc., they “coach to teach, and not to win.” He goes on to explain that their mission is to teach children how sports and competition reveal one’s character. Locklear notes that his father was his first and greatest coach, which has given him the knowledge that a good, loving coach is an important thing for a child to have, when journeying into sports.
At one location, he’s most proud of his organization for selecting the bottom 20% of 2nd graders, and working with the school to get them above or at reading level before they enter the next grade. Sports are also a part of this program, used as a reward “If a child can’t read, they will get angry and negative things will ultimately happen,” Locklear points out. “We work with the children to get them excited about reading, which improves everything from their self-confidence to their social skills.”
To Locklear, it really is not about winning or losing, but how one plays the game. He makes sure to teach students that whether one succeeds or fails, it’s important to not attach one’s identity to what happens in a game. There are neither “winners” nor “losers.” Either way, working to achieve something is what matters. Sports teach children to learn that they can be a small part of a bigger, more important picture.
In addition to his work during the year, Locklear also has a summer program called the “Kids Club Camp.” This summer camp is for less athletically focused children to experience nature, playground games, and dance movement. Currently, the “Kids Club Camp” is run out of El Segundo, Santa Monica, and Playa Vista.
“What has surprised me most about working with kids is how much they teach me,” Locklear smiles. “I have also learned that regardless of whether or not I think I can do something, the most important thing is that it is always worth trying.”
He finds it very rewarding to teach a child who may have some anxiety or fears about sports to go for it no matter what. When that child gains the courage to make an attempt, it is the most valuable thing that child can learn to do. “Fear is a great liar,” Locklear muses. “It’s just an imposter, and not a real feeling to give credence to.”
In the future, Locklear would love to see Coach Derek Inc. and all of its umbrella programs to expand across the country. He wants to continue to help others, to keep providing quality extracurricular education, and to always be serving communities through positive competition, and with a great deal of love.
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