Veteran Bronco Brian King agreed to share with Idaho Youth Sports Commission (IYSC) some of the best lessons that came from his coaches throughout his playing career. He also relays experiences as a parent, coaching his own kids, and then as a Dad in the stands to three accomplished players.
About Brian: King lives in Eagle, Idaho, is originally from Ontario, Oregon, played collegiate basketball as a freshman at Oregon State, followed by a three-year run at BSU (1987-90). He then played professionally in Australia. At BSU, he was part of a Big Sky championship team under Coach Bobby Dye. His three children played at Centennial High and Eagle High and two have played at the collegiate level. He has coached at the youth level through the professional ranks. Brian is a member of the executive board for the Idaho Youth Sports Commission.
Paint us a picture of your early years that led you to basketball.
I grew up in Ontario, Oregon, and it was just a great sports-based community. We had wonderful parent involvement, and lots of coaches involved at younger levels. I was kind of the typical athlete of my time, playing football, basketball, and baseball—and loved them all. I grew to 6’5” and leaned into basketball and was fortunate enough to play collegiately and professionally for a couple of years. I feel lucky that from the fifth grade all the way to the professional ranks, I had fantastic coaches. They were truly engaged in being experts in their field. I now realize how truly fortunate I was at that point. They made a massive impact. I also know that not everyone is that fortunate.
What is it that makes a coach a good coach?
The consistent theme I saw from all of my coaches was that they were committed to being an excellent coach. They believed this was their life’s calling. I think the excellent coaches today are the ones who are all in, completely committed, they understand the full impact they have on athletes each and every year, always going to clinics, and always using resources like what’s offered by IYSC.
Teaching the skills and the x’s and o’s is a part of it, but it’s also the coaches who understand the chemistry of the team, and the experience that these players will have, or won’t have. They understand that this is a players one time through their system, so let’s make it a great experience for them, as opposed to “this is just another kid coming through, so whatever happens, happens.” There is a difference there. The good ones realize this might be the only experience that this kid is going to have in athletics, and they do all those extra little things to make it a memorable experience. They understand where the player fits and how much success he is going to have on the court or on the field. The players who look like they might not play as much for example, players nine through twelve on the back-end of the basketball bench, the great coaches understand that they can make the experience just as positive and validate their value to the team both on and off the court with not a lot of extra effort.
It really does not take that much extra effort, and the coaches that are all in, they pay attention to this and realize the importance of it.
If a coach can get it to that level, everything changes. Everything is better. Referees take less heat, parents are more supportive, the athletes are more positive, the team is better each and every day, and you don’t get the mental health issues that are so prevalent in today’s world, even in high school. When everyone on the team feels involved, they are more engaged. Everyone wins this way.
I’ll give you an example. My son played at the University of Utah. He was one of those back-end of the bench players for Utah. They had a huge game coming up against the Kentucky Wildcats. My son’s coach created an unforgettable opportunity for him. He assigned Brooks as team captain for that game and with the pre-tip-off, center-court meet up with the opposing team’s captains, Brooks was one of the Utah Ute players at center court with the officials and opposing team. An unforgettable experience for Brooks AND his teammates and coaches. This slight gesture by the Utah coach, sent a message to Brooks that he was valued, and important to the team regardless of how much playing time he was receiving.
You mentioned that for many kids, junior high or high school might be the best sports experience of their life.
My belief is that the youth sports experience should be about the best sports experience you should ever have. I was speaking with Cody Pickett the other day—who still owns PAC-12 passing records while playing for the University of Washington—and he gets it. He said there is nothing better than playing in front of a packed high school gym, or high school Friday night football. That is why I am involved with the IYSC, because there are a lot of important messages for coaches, parents, and players. And those messages just need to be continually delivered, delivered, and delivered until it soaks in because youth sports are packed with more pressure and expectations than ever before. These young athletes will remember those days for the rest of their lives. Either in a positive way or a negative way. The coaches and parents can control that if they want to.
What’s your best memory from your playing days?
For me and for most players, it’s the locker room, the bus trips, plane rides, wearing jerseys in the hallway, and maybe a few of the big plays. I remember most the camaraderie and the relationships. When you talk to your teammate’s years later, we always talk about the off-court experiences. The laughs, the successes, the failures, the butt chewing’s, the crazy plays. Sports are truly about the joy of teammates.
You have coached at the youth level all the way up to the professional ranks. Has coaching changed?
I will say this. Very few recognize how much time most coaches put in. There is so much pressure on coaches today, and it’s way worse than anyone knows. If we could do one thing to make it better for coaches, it would be to relieve pressure that comes from parents. If you can remove that pressure, everyone wins, including the parent, and most importantly, the players. Parents should be the support mechanism, and let the coach’s coach. We need to get this message to parents early in their child’s life. There’s a danger that if the athlete sees a parent blaming a coach, then the athlete learns to blame everyone else for rough spots in their life. Instead, I’m all about promoting the notion of a player taking responsibility for their own success and how to best achieve that success, regardless of what it is. Not everyone can be the star, but success can come from many angles. Parents need to help their young athletes define what type of success each athlete can expect.
Parents need to be their child’s advocate, not a harsh critic. They can teach and help prepare. Some parents attach their own ego to the child’s experience and have no awareness of doing so. Parents can help their child set reasonable expectations that fit their abilities and their personality. They need to find the right channel for their athlete. They also need to be the person their son or daughter can always count on, regardless of the good times and the bad times.
Any coaching regrets?
Well of course! It’s easy to look back and wish we did a few things differently. Coming back from a practice I was coaching one night, on the car ride home, I let my son know of a number of things where he really fell short in his performance. I didn’t mince words and I didn’t let up very quickly. There was certainly tension in that long car ride home, at least from my side. My son was 9 years old, and I was really giving it to him. After a few minutes of silence, my son finally spoke up. He said, “Dad, how ‘bout we go for some ice cream?” He absolutely took me by surprise. My 9 year old was more mature than me! It was a lesson I will never forget. It really put things in perspective for me, and reminded me of what we are really trying to accomplish with youth sports.
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