Aaron Locks, A Man On A Youth Sports Mission

Aaron Locks is 6 years old. He is trying to play baseball. He’s not doing a very good job of it. He strikes out. He starts bawling. He throws the bat down, the helmet down. He is ready to chuck the whole thing.

“Who’s your favorite baseball player?” his coach asks.

“Willie Mays,” Locks responds.

“Well, Willie Mays made an out seven of every 10 times he went to bat,” the coach says. “And half of those times he made an out, he struck out. You’re 6 years old. What makes you think you’re better than Willie Mays?”

Thirty-nine years later, Aaron Locks still remembers that conversation. It has become a cornerstone of who Locks has become and what he does for a living. That coach, Marty Islas of MillValley, now in Petaluma, gave Locks one of the most essential values necessary to handle the inevitable peaks and valleys of sport.

“Perspective,” said Locks, who lives in Santa Rosa, owns a health club in Rohnert Park, and operates sports youth camps in Northern California.

That perspective gained some depth after Locks graduated from Sonoma State University. He worked one year with UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, helping Wooden run his sports camps at California Lutheran University. It was advanced further when he worked for the Los Angeles Lakers for three seasons, running youth sports camps for Pat Riley and Magic Johnson. It gained permanent traction when Locks worked in the same capacity as the Golden State Warriors for three years during the era of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin.

“With Coach Wooden, I learned the value of discipline and hard work as the necessary foundation for success,” Locks said.“With the Lakers, I learned it was OK to have fun playing basketball. With the Warriors, I learned that kids became more enamored with getting the autographs of famous basketball players than actually listening to what the athlete had to say.”

Having those associations, fueled by the perspective gained at 6, Locks has run youth sports camps in Rohnert Park since 1991. Able to attract former NBA stars such as Rick Barry and Al Attles, Locks was determined to strike the happy balance for kids by juggling fun, learning, and winning. Locks is the first to admit he is taking on a boatload of tasks, for if there is one thing anyone knows about Americans and sports, we love, prize, and covet winning above everything else.

“I heard this coach say before his basketball team played a game:‘If we win tonight, I’m taking you guys out for an ice cream!’” Locks said.“But what if the team loses? What does the coach do then?”

Continued: Read the full story by Bob Padecky

Bob Padecky: bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.