SCU talks to Coach Bruner about Youth Development Through Sports

by Randy Drautz

SportsConnectU Co-Founder, Britney Morgan had the privilege of speaking with Coach Bruner about his coaching career, his philosophy and the development of youth through sports.

Q: Give us a little background on your career. How did you get your start in coaching?

When I was with the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma City working as a Summer Camp Counselor, we had the opportunity to scrimmage another Boys & Girls Club basketball team. The experience ignited the possibility of me being a positive influence through the sport. This happened while I was in college, and ever since then it has always been a passion of mine.

The idea of coaching was propelled forward when I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my church team while playing in a church league.

The goal was to win basketball games to earn the right share the gospel with the people we were playing against, because you know nobody’s going to listen to you if they beat you. Lol.  So we had a lot of motivation behind us.

During the game, I had an experience where I became really dehydrated, and kind of felt like I had an out-of-body experience. We ended up winning the game and I played really well. And when I was feeling lightheaded, I just said God that if I fall out on the court it’s because I’m playing for you and not for myself. And it was the first time in my life that I really realized that me playing sports and this gift that I had to play basketball wasn’t for me. It was for me to serve others. And from that experience, I decided that I was going to serve others through the game of basketball.

I joined Ron Clark Academy originally as an executive assistant in 2007. When I started, we didn’t have any sports programs. Three years later, our student body population grew and the Luke Sports League opened up for a charter schools. We put a group of guys together, and within two weeks we were playing in our first game.  At that point my idea was still the same motivation that came from my experience in the Dominican Republic was to use the game of basketball to prepare these young men to be great both on and off the basketball court.

Q: Tell me more about your philosophy of holistically developing student- athletes.

We are spiritual, mental and physical beings – all of those exist in one entity. My belief is that if one of those areas is unhealthy, then it has the potential to make all of those areas unhealthy. If you don’t have a perspective into the afterlife –or where you ask really deep life questions like who am I or what am I here to do… If you don’t have a good anchor with that, it’s really going to affect your mind and how you respond to situations in life, and the mind controls the body. The spiritual aspect is the first priority, mind is second and body is third. My goal is, when you’re playing in sports, that all three of these areas are engaged

I really try to engage that from a healthy standpoint from my personal experience. What I’ve learned up to this point is that if you have a spiritual relationship with a higher power, when things aren’t going well, you have a go-to reference to keep a healthy mental state.  A good mental practice I like to teach is visualization. You know, seeing yourself being successful beforehand is key.

Coach Bruner
Watch video highlighting Coach Bruner and the Ron Clark Academy Blue Dragons. See great clips of his pre-game ritual to mentally prepare his players for the game. Click here. 

Q: Tell us about B.E.A.T. THE ODDS and what it represents?

The acronym stands for Bruner Education and Athletic Training. B.E.A.T. THE ODDS is my life motto – the odds have been staked against me since birth that a lot of other people didn’t make it out of. What are the odds of me being here? What are the odds of me beating spinal meningitis as a six-month-old? What are the odds of me earning my degree? What are the odds of me being married for twelve years? And so forth… Growing up in a single-parent household, I’ve thought a lot about how I overcame those things.

B.E.A.T. THE ODDS is a mindset, it’s a lifestyle and it’s a way of thinking that life will hand you its fair share of difficulties to overcome. And just like in sports, in life we can prepare our minds to better respond to those things. B.E.A.T. THE ODDS is definitely about overcoming the odds in sports – making a team or becoming the best athlete you desire to be. Or, it could be overcoming a loved one having cancer. Ultimately, it’s knowing that it’s better to fight than to let these things overtake you.

Beat Athletics
Coach Bruner expresses his excitement for one of his  B.E.A.T. athletics student’s success. 

Q: What was your experience like coaching at The Ron Clark Academy? How have you seen kids develop after going through your program?

When they come in, they’re fifth graders. They’re nine and ten-year-olds – and even though they’re not on a team… (They actually can’t be on a team until their sixth grade year.) However, we’re seeing them develop from little boys into mature young men that get awarded scholarships to attend boarding schools as well as private schools. I have a few of my former athletes in college right now, and the fact that they are pursuing college and still playing sports, is an amazing honor to know that I was a part of that development. Seeing them go from a goofy, irresponsible little boy to a mature and responsible student-athlete is an amazing honor. In fact, I still play basketball against some of them, and they still can’t beat me! LOL!

Antone - Former RCA Blue Dragon
Antone Williams – Former RCA Blue Dragon heading to Duke! 


Q: With there being a number of challenges for coaches and others in the community that want to develop kids through sports in a more holistic way? What is your advice to them?

Use your heart – you can only coach from your own personal experience. I received a concept from Joe Ervin who came up with the term “Transformational Coaching”.  Joe played as a professional football player, and said that there are two types of coaches… Transactional coaches and transformational coaches.

Transactional coaches look at getting the most out of their players to win games, and creating a winning culture. If you give me something, I’ll give you something in return – extra playing time, etc. It’s conventional.

For transformational coaches, they look at what is in the best interest of this player from the inside out – making sure they develop into young men and women.  Transformational coaching has the best long-term results.

Legendary coaches like John Wooden have taught with the philosophy of personal development as a whole, rather that X’s and O’s. Basically, caring more about the person than winning or losing. That’s what I desire. Coaches have to make that decision on the front end because it’s against the grain to have that type of belief system within the game of sports.

Coach Bruner plans to continue as Head Basketball coach at RCA, focus on evolving his B.E.A.T the O.D.Ds brand and to continue walking in faith. If you have any questions for coach Bruner or about B.E.A.T the ODDS please leave a comment below or contacting follow him on Instagram and Twitter @lazarusspeaks.




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