A Passion For Excellence

By Fred Engh

Ted Lockamon’s passion for sports was ignited at an early age.


“My dad played on one of the best softball teams on the east coast, and as a child, my family spent almost every weekend traveling to tournaments, so I grew up around athletics,” he recalls.

And when he wasn’t watching softball games, Lockamon was orchestrating pick-up games in the neighborhood.

“It seemed I was always the one trying to organize things, keep stats, and come up with new twists to the games,” he says. “This passion carried over to majoring in recreation and leisure studies at East Carolina University.”

It also eventually led him across the country to the city of Henderson (Nev.), where as the recreation services supervisor for the past 9 years, his unwavering passion for providing positive experiences for the 10,000 youngsters ages 3 to 18 who participate in its programs is on full display every day.

What is the best idea your department has come up with since you have been there?
Ted: Instead of relying on a draft system in which the coaches create the teams, players are actually rated by our staff members utilizing a player-rating system.

For each sport season, we schedule player ratings at one of our fields or gyms and run the participants through five skill stations. Then, taking into account height in basketball and pitching in baseball, we assign players to a team using the numbering system.

We also factor in the geographic area of their homes for practices and games. While no system is perfect, we have found this one is the most fair and unbiased method to create teams.

If you were speaking to a group of inexperienced recreation professionals, what would you tell them to help them succeed?
Ted: Have a vision of where you want your program to be, create a step-by-step plan, and go to work. You must develop a core set of principles to guide you and to adhere to; this is called integrity.

Also, be reliable, be accountable, and follow through. And remember to take time to stop and look around. After all, you are lucky enough to work in sports every day!

What is the worst day on the job you have ever had?
Ted: Early in my career, a first- and second-grade coach-pitch baseball team actually quit the league. The parents and coaches of that team could not get along.

Every week there seemed to be a new issue. My supervisor and I would address it, but then something else would happen at the next game or practice. We met with the team on several occasions, and finally asked the coaches to step down.

We scheduled another practice for the team, hoping that one of the parents would step up and take over the coaching, but they informed us they would rather quit than continue the season.

That was the darkest day of my career. We were so dejected because we could not find a way to salvage the situation. I’ll never forget it, and hope that never happens again.

What’s better for kids--participation trophies for everyone or first-place trophies for the best team? Ted: I think it depends on the age of the participants. I do not see a problem with providing participation awards for players ages 7 and under, but for older players, participation awards lose their value.

Earning a first-place trophy should not be a negative. There are teachable sportsmanship moments in learning how to win with class.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at fengh@nays.org. To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit www.nays.org or contact Emmy Martinez at emartinez@nays.org or (800) 729-2057.