From Setback to Success: A Journey of Resilience and Purpose

For over three years, I had the privilege of working alongside Coach Pat Riley, the renowned LA Lakers coach. Together, we successfully organized youth basketball camps in Southern California, assisting not only Coach Riley but also basketball icons like Magic and others. However, despite our fruitful collaboration, I decided to return to the Bay area to be closer to my mother. In my newfound location, I began running basketball camps with the Golden State Warriors legends, Don Nelson, George Karl, Chris Mullen, and Mitch Richmond.

Although I enjoyed my current endeavors, I yearned to take on the challenge of coaching a high school team and it seemed like the ideal next step for me. With that in mind, I took the bold step of applying to become the boys’ varsity basketball coach at a high school in Sonoma County. Little did I know that this decision would mark a turning point in my life.

Letter of recommendation for Aaron Locks by Pat Riley

Recognizing the weight a recommendation from Coach Riley would carry, I humbly approached him and asked if he would write me a letter of recommendation. Generously, he agreed and composed an outstanding letter that spoke volumes about my capabilities.

Armed with the glowing recommendation from one of the NBA’s world-champion coaches, I felt confident about my chances. I completed all the necessary paperwork and went through the application process, convinced that success was within reach.

During the final interview, I proudly presented the letter of recommendation from Coach Riley. The athletic director and the committee members were astounded by its contents, expressing their awe and stating, “I’ve never seen a recommendation like this!” Filled with hope, I left the room and patiently waited outside as they deliberated amongst themselves.

After what seemed like an eternity, the athletic director emerged, her eyes welled up with tears. She looked at me and delivered the heartbreaking news. Just moments ago, they had received a notification that an on-campus teacher had accepted the coaching position, leaving no room for me. Despite the outstanding recommendation, fate had dealt me an unexpected blow.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, realizing that even with the endorsement of the world’s best coach, I had fallen short of my aspirations. However, I refused to let this setback define me. Resilience became my guiding principle.

In the face of disappointment, I made a pivotal decision. I resolved to return to school, complete my degree, and explore ways to make a more significant impact on children’s lives through sports. Within a couple of years, armed with a degree in communication, I played a role in establishing a recreational sports department at a university. This experience fueled my entrepreneurial spirit, leading me to launch my first company.

Looking back on that trying period, I recognize it as a profound challenge. I often wonder how easy it would have been to abandon my aspirations and retreat to familiar territory. However, upon reflection, I realized that failing to secure that high school basketball coaching position propelled me to reevaluate my purpose, my actions, and my unwavering commitment to achieving my dreams.

Now, nearly 40 years later, I am still actively pursuing my passion for empowering children through sports, helping them discover life’s incredible lessons and skills, both challenging and rewarding, through participation in youth sports. I am forever grateful to Coach Riley for his invaluable letter of recommendation. When I contemplate the past, I realize that not obtaining that coaching position may have been the best failure of my life.