SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd -

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First District Championship in 13 Years

Here below is a testimony from Mike Key the AD and Boys Head Basketball Coach at Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger KY. They have been with SportsLeader for two seasons now and this year they had a tremendous turnaround and a District Championship title for the first time in 13 years beating a school about 4 times their size which is a short bike ride away.

It is so inspiring to see coaches who really pour their hearts into their kids with a vision for the future.

Dear Sportsleader,

As I reflected back on our season and the special run we were able to go on at the end, winning the District Championship and making it to the final four in the region, I tried to think about what made a change, was there a specific moment.  In looking at it there is not one that stood out.  Sure we made some tactical changes here and there but we really decided that we were going to be a team that as we put it  “ do what we do”.  That was not only from a basketball standpoint but for entire program.  How we worked with our kids, from the emphasis we put on character and doing the right things at the right time, to holding each other accountable when we didn’t do the right things.  That attitude of being relentless in doing what is right is what allowed us to overcome at the end. 

I have heard Coach K say that each season is a journey that lasts a lifetime and as I continue to work with young people I believe this is true.  Our kids as I am sure everybody’s else’s kids have a lot of issues that are bigger and more challenging than their ability to pass, dribble and shoot.   Our kids at times are not sure where they will sleep that night, who their father is and where he is, whether or not there will be drug and alcohol use going on when they get home, along with the other common high school sports issues of overbearing dad’s and at times unrealistic expectations.  

These take its toll on everyone associated with the basketball program, it makes it harder for young men to trust the coaches, it makes it harder for coaches to trust the players in doing the right things.  It makes for a lot of moments that test what you are made of as a man who will lead young men.  This season was very testing as we went through a 3 and 8 start, we went through several meetings with kids in which of course criticism came upon the players and coaches.  I as a head coach was too much about life lessons and not enough about winning, we had handled a dismissal of a player from the team poorly for continued violation of team rules, the way that we were playing was not beneficial for our kids, our kids were not tough enough and on and on. 

Through that criticism it rallied us around what was most important to me and what was going to be most important to the program and our kids.  Faith, Family, School and Basketball was going to be our focus win or lose.  When we entered the season and took our virtue camp we decided that Sacrifice, Respect and Perseverance were going to be our focus.  We were going to sacrifice for each other, respect ourselves and our opponents and persevere through whatever was to come our way.  The weekly readings and stories became great resources to continue to motivate me and our kids to do what was really important. 

As we entered the end of the season the players were taking more responsibility for their own actions, they were disciplining themselves, from missed lay ups to not having practice shorts that day to staying away from parties on the weekends.  So just as we had decided what was important to us the kids played the District tournament with the same priorities they sacrificed for each other, respected there ability to play with a really good opponent and in the end persevered by hitting a last second shot to win.

As we moved forward the following week after the District Championship, the first for our school since 1999, we decided to clear the air before we started to focus on our next task the regional tournament, we asked each of the kids what the Trophy had meant to them.  As we went around the circle each kid talked about the perseverance, how they had come together and sacrificed for each other. 

Then I was ready to finish the talk and move on to practice, the seniors stopped and said coach you have not said what it means to you.  They wanted to know where I was, so I told them,  my greatest hope for them is that they use the lessons that we had gone through to achieve success and apply it to their lives.  They apply the lessons of hard work, doing the right things, believing in their ability, and sacrifice for each other and families. 

As great as the run that we had went on at the end of the season was,  if they do not go on to become great men then the trophy and the accomplishment will just be a number on a banner and a piece of wood in a trophy case.  So in looking back at the season that we had and the success we think we had,  we will not  know if we were really successful for some time off in the future, when our kids become fathers, husbands, church members, employee’s and citizens.   If they can use some of the lessons that we learned and taught this year then we will have had a great year. 

Mike Key 

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