Motivate, Empower, & Inspire
I first met David Cooks in the fall of 2005 during my junior year of college. Cooks, at that time, was the head boys basketball coach at Milwaukee Marquette High School. Ironically, two of my college roommates had attended school there and spoke highly of him.
To make a long story short, I had recently decided to stop playing college basketball. It was an incredibly hard decision, but in an effort to stay connected to the game, I had reached out to Coach Cooks to see if he could use an extra set of hands during the upcoming season.
He offered my an assistant coaching job, which I was extremely excited about. However, during the first month or so, he was always on my case. "Get me some water!" he'd yell.
As so many coaches know, there was a feeling out period that needed to take place. When my classes would end, I'd take the bus up Wisconsin Avenue to the high school and chat with Cooks for about 30 minutes each day before practice. Originally, I was there to talk about practice plans, upcoming games, etc. After all, that was my job, and I wanted to do it well.
As time passed, our chats evolved. He wanted to know about my classes, my ambitions, and my goals for my life.
He'd pour me a glass of juice and then ask, "So, you got a girlfriend yet?"
For the next 2 years, I had the privilege of not only learning from one of the best but being mentored too. This was about more than just basketball; it was about developing high-character young men (and I was one of them).
One of the greatest things that can happen to a coach is when former players take the time to come back and visit. These are young men that don't know it at the time, but their actions are subtly saying, "This basketball experience meant something to me." From alumni games to lunch invitations, kids came back. I was a small wheel in the cog; Cooks was the conductor.
That was 16 years ago. Today, David is a world-class speaker, author, and podcast host. He's taken this whole mentorship thing to another level, and I'm proud to call him a friend.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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