Building Greatness: My Experiences Coaching Youth Basketball


Coaching for Community: At St. James Methodist Church, juniors Hugh Breeden and Henry Peck worked together to lead a youth basketball team. And to say it wasn’t easy would be an understatement.

In the IB Career Program – or IB CP – we have a project called Service Learning. We do this project over the course of two years, providing evidence of our ability to apply our knowledge and skills toward a community need. What I chose to do for my project was coach youth basketball, helping younger kids develop their skills and their love for the game. Since the season recently ended, I thought I would share my experience with coaching.

It started off with an idea. I could use my love for the game of basketball and help the community in the process, making coaching a perfect match. And it would be pretty easy too, right? Oh, how I couldn’t be more wrong. Let’s get to that later though. To start, I emailed the church I was going to coach at – St. James United Methodist Church – and went to the coaches meeting. I found out I was going to coach a 9-10 year old team, which wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I gladly accepted the position as I was excited to coach. For some background information, St. James United Methodist Church was where I first played and found my love for basketball. By coaching there, my basketball journey would become full circle.

I eventually got my team, sent an email to the parents introducing myself, and then scheduled the first practice. Then I met the team. I was honestly very surprised because they were very small people. In retrospect, I probably should have expected that. As a team, we went into the simplest drill I could think of which was lay-up lines. I was surprised to find that they could not do lay-ups to save their lives. It was hard to see how little experience they had. Yet, practice after practice I could see glimpses of improvement and their potential as a team.

Finally, the first game of the season happened. It was rough, we barely scored 8 points while letting up over 20 to the other team. They had easily gotten past our man defense and the team was frustrated by the other team’s half court press when on offense. I had never been in a situation where I felt so incapable of doing anything. I made adjustments for the second half and we improved. By the final buzzer, the game felt closer than the score reflected.

As the season progressed the team got better. I had players I could rely on, and the team was building chemistry. The season had been filled with mostly disappointment as they didn’t win a game. Yet, over the course of the season, I felt a great pride seeing my 9 and 10-year-old team improve.

That was my biggest takeaway from coaching this season: things aren’t always going to go your way. The way someone handles the things that don’t go their way shows a lot about that person’s character. My players handled whatever came at them with an attitude of optimism that sometimes I wouldn’t even have. They showed perseverance that I was proud to be a part of and it inspired me to lead them through the season with the same optimism that they showed on the court. Hopefully, the “St. James Knockouts” will come ready to win next season with me at the helm.