Corey D. Holzer keeps his eye on the ball. He knows that skill, practice and persistence make for winning outcomes.
Holzer is co-founder of Holzer Holzer & Fistela, a boutique firm that represents investors victimized by securities fraud or other corporate corruption.
After work, though, he often can be found on the playing field, teaching young boys everything he knows about sports.
"I think coaching makes me a better lawyer," said Holzer. "It would be very easy to feel like my practice was the most important thing in my life, to be driven by that and to think about it 24/7.
Coaching sports, he added, "provides critical balance to the pressures of law and is such a blessing to me."
Were sports always important to you?
Always, as far back as I can remember. I’ve played baseball since I could walk. According to family stories, my father signed a waiver for me to play on a team at age 4. Now that I think about it, he probably wrote the waiver.
I played as much as I could growing up. I played first base in baseball through high school and also played basketball and football. I always wished I was better than I was. I didn’t play in college, but I did play on an amateur baseball league in Atlanta until my mid-30s, when I started coaching.
What got you into coaching?
My son Jaron, who started playing football in first grade. He’s 9 now and waiting to meet a sport he doesn’t like. He plays much better than me. He started with football and then found basketball and baseball.
In community leagues, there are always more kids who want to play than coaches. I considered it a privilege to be asked to coach and feel fortunate that they keep asking me back. I’ve coached every one of my son’s teams. We finally had to make a family rule that he would no longer play two sports in a season.
Do you have other children that play sports?
I have two wonderful girls who are younger: Jordy, 5, and Ella, 3. Fortunately, they haven’t expressed an interest in team sports yet, but I do attend dance recitals regularly.
Did you worry about being your son’s coach as well as his father?
Yes, I was afraid that because of my competitiveness, I might be too hard on him or that parents might think I was favoring him in some way. I’m fortunate that he’s a great teammate and leader, so I haven’t been put in that predicament. I believe that it’s really important to treat all children equally, so for that part of the day, my primary role is coach, not parent. Also, I’m not always top dog — sometimes I have an assistant coaching role. Sometimes when he needs work on a skill, I’ll ask another parent to help him.
In the big picture, I think he enjoys that I do it and that we’re together. I don’t have to look for ways to spend time with him, and we’ve had some great experiences.
Can you tell us about one?
At the end of the regular baseball season last spring at Sandy Springs Youth Sports, they chose 10 to 12 boys to represent the park for summer competition. My son played first and third base, and I was thrilled that they asked me to coach. We ended up winning our district, North Metro Atlanta. We went to Valdosta [Ga.] for the state tournament and came in 10th out of 21 teams. We had a blast and the boys got to learn different skills and play against some of the best in the state. It was eye-opening and humbling.
What’s your coaching philosophy?
My first rule is that the game is not about the coaches, it’s about the kids. Whatever strategies I put in place, my focus is on them, on helping them learn. My second rule is that the players need to have fun every single day. There are times when they need to listen, but if they’re not having fun, you can’t teach them.
It’s a cliche, I know, but it is all about how you play the game. What I ask my kids after every game is whether they played as hard as they could. Kids will tell you the truth. We look at mistakes and talk about what to learn from them, how to improve.
Losing is part of sports and I want them to be able to lose with dignity and grace. If they lose to a better team, then I remind them where they played well. If they lose to a team that is not as talented, then we talk about playing up to our full potential.
A lot of the games are videotaped, but I won’t watch the tapes more than once. I remind myself that I’m dealing with kids, and keep things in perspective.
Have you had trouble with interfering parents?
People will tell you that parents can be the worst aspect of youth sports, but I haven’t had too many bad experiences. It can make for a tough situation when every parent thinks his kid is the best. Obviously, they can’t all be right.
Ultimately, my relationship with the kids is more important to me than my relationship with the parents.
How did you learn to be a coach?
My dad coached me and my brothers and he was a great role model. I’ll never forget the dedication and effort he put into coaching, or the bonds we formed. I took it for granted that he would just be there at 5:30. I didn’t realize until I got older the sacrifice that it took.
How do you make coaching demands fit with your busy law schedule?
I make it one of my priorities. There are times when I have to miss practices or games because of work. That’s just the way it is, but it rarely happens that someone in the firm can’t handle things when I leave at 4:30. I’ve learned how to work faster and to make coffee and work till the wee hours if need be, but I’m not missing a game if I can help it.
What do you love best about coaching?
I love the gratification of seeing someone achieve something that he wanted to do but didn’t think he could do. Seeing a kid make his first tackle or get his first hit, that’s wonderful for me. Coaching takes you away, into a different environment. And when else do you get to be outside these days? There’s no greater pleasure in life.