Tulsa Shock Coach Kloppenburg is No Ordinary Dad
Tulsa Shock Head Basketball Coach Gary Kloppenburg has three adult children: Ian, Sonja and Carlotta and an extended family of 14 very tall, athletic ladies.
Kloppenburg, or as he is fondly referred to by his team, “Coach Klopp,” took over the helm of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Shock in 2012, bringing a sound coaching resume to the third year Tulsa franchise. The California native has coached from the community college level to the NBA.
Following in his father’s basketball footsteps, Kloppenburg settled into coaching after years of playing the game. His children were always active in sports and, because of his coaching positions, Ian, Sonja and Carlotta’s playground included school gyms.
“Because I was a coach, I had the keys to the school gyms,” Kloppenburg said. “My kids grew up with basketballs at their disposal.”
Carlotta, his youngest daughter, discovered her love for the game while tagging along with her father to the gym and games.
“Carlotta is known as the ‘Lucky Baby.’ I coached Lassen College to the California Community College State title the day she was born,” he smiled.
Carlotta said the strong bond between her and her dad lies in their mutual passion for sports. “Most of that time we spend together is either in the gym or eating Mexican food,” she said. “He would put me through workouts every day before and after practice. He really has helped me develop my shot and keeps me focused. He helps and motivates me through tough losses or slumps by simply saying ‘don’t think, just play.’ He has always been supportive of me, no matter how good or bad I play at times.”
Last summer Carlotta, an aspiring future basketball coach, worked alongside her dad as an intern with the Tulsa Shock. “My eyes were opened to more than just the aspect of the game itself, but also what it means to manage a team off the court, from locker room meetings, to hard days at practice, to even the personal level of coach to player relationships. I admired how humble and hard-working my dad was throughout the ups and downs of the season.”
And, the summer internship also helped Carlotta improve her game. When an extra player was needed on the court during a practice, her father was quick to put Carlotta into the mix, encouraging her to go toe to toe against some of the league’s top players.
Kloppenburg’s oldest child, Sonja Brummer, said she and her siblings were fortunate to grow up in a world of sports and learned at an early age how important it is to stay active, fit and healthy, all while having fun. Sonja is the owner of two Amazing Athletes franchises, a sports and fitness developmental program for kids ages 2-12 years.
“Even though my athletes are a lot younger than my dad’s athletes, I hope to be just as influential as he is,” she said. “I hope I am able to instill the same love for sports in my young athletes like I learned from him at a young age. By doing so, my athletes can have longer, healthier and happier lives than those who are not involved in sports.”
Kloppenburg has already shot some hoops with his 1-year-old grandson. “I’m not sure who had more fun, grandpa or grandbaby,” Sonja said. “It is very apparent that the Kloppenburg genes are still going strong generation after generation.”
Kloppenburg not only takes pride in his children but also his extended family of Shock team players. “Our players are very good role models,” he said. “It is important for women to know they can play sports at a high level and get a college degree and have the opportunity to still compete in their sport.”
When the rookies join the team in the spring, the Shock coaches and veterans take them under their wing. “We do whatever we can to help them adapt and we get together off the court to get to know each other.”
Shock player and Stanford graduate Kayla Pederson said the Shock team is like a family because the coaches and the players care and look out for each other. “We spend a lot of time together,” she said, “so you have to depend on one another to move forward, just as a family does. You can count on Coach to invest time in his players. He also knows what we’re capable of so he pushes us to improve.”
Coaching, said Kloppenburg, is like raising kids. “Communication is vital, and you have to treat your players with respect and be there to help them.” Women, he said, are very conscious of creating a team atmosphere and see their basketball as their job and put in a lot of time and effort to improve.
“Women are very receptive to being coached. They get the ‘learning curve’ and are open to being coached no matter what level of player they are,” he said.
With years of coaching experience and witnessing the positive results of a team’s hard work, Kloppenburg knows success on the court for the Shock is eminent. “We are confident the Tulsa Shock will slowly build a reputation in the league and a good fan base.”