2019 Y Thunder Coach of the Year
Coaching his nephew's little league baseball team when he was 17 years old planted the seed for Robert Baker. The baseball diamond helped him see the profound impact of sportsmanship and team camaraderie on the boys off the field.
However, watching 90s-era NBA hoops and the countless hours of playing pickup outside as a kid ignited his fire for the game and eventually pulled Baker to the hardwood.
Five seasons and counting of coaching youth basketball, the married Oklahoma City native and father of four children has committed to being the first person in the gym on practices and game days. As a coach of the 8U Spirit division of the YMCA Thunder Basketball League, Baker wanted to set the tone and greet each of his players with a big smile and high-fives.
"It's important to do this because it shows the kids you’re excited to be there and that you are as passionate about the game as the players are," he said.
Because of his outstanding impact on young people on and off the court, Baker was recognized as the 2019 YMCA Thunder Basketball League Coach of the Year. In addition, he has a chance to earn up to $5,000 for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City if selected as the national winner through the Jr. NBA Coach of the Year program.
The crucial role of sports and coaching in Baker's life traced back to the loss of his father. He turned a traumatic event in his life into a life dedicated on helping others build self-confidence toward personal growth and future success.
For Baker, the practices and games gave his players the experience to focus on the positives versus failure and defeat. Basketball served as a vehicle to not only teach on-court fundamentals, but also to instill life skills pivotal to the development of his kids.
Indeed, a child discovering his or her confidence while learning sportsmanship and teamwork through the game fueled Baker's love of coaching youth basketball.
"My goal is to make the practice fun while including drills that will teach players the fundamental skills of the game," he said.