3 Things I’ve Learned From Coaching Youth Basketball

Clank, another shot begrudgingly scrapes against the rim, falling to the tan checkered floor. Hi, my name is Nicholas Bartlett, and I’m a youth basketball coach. How I got into coaching is a story in and of itself, which you can read here. However, as time progressed, there may have been some things I’ve learned in my tread across the universe. Here are three things I’ve learned from coaching youth basketball.


After my universe reference, were you expecting something a little more far-fetched?

In all seriousness, coaching has taught me to show up for these kids daily. There is something special about the bond between an athlete and their instructor that can’t be replicated.

I’ve worked with youth as an elementary school program director, high school teacher’s assistant, and a big-brother mentor-type role. But the feeling is different. 

It feels like kids give their all to sport, and I need to do my best to respect their passion. 

It’s also humbling that parents trust me with their children daily; it’s a gratifying feeling considering my college choices. You know what I’m talking about. 

But maybe most importantly, coaching holds me accountable to do what I love. Before my return to the hardwood, I was a follower. I followed the crowd, my parents, friends, and anything that provided relief from a life that felt void and meaningless. 

But now, I make choices that lead me toward spiritual growth rather than physical destruction. 

And coaching spurred this movement.


There are two definitions of discipline according to “Oxford Languages.”

The first reads, “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. I couldn’t disagree with this statement anymore. 

I made my own definition: discipline is positive reinforcement guiding an individual toward a preferred behavior. 

For example, during Tuesday’s practice, I implemented a pick and roll scheme into our game plan titled “Pickle Roll.”

However, instead of directing players every step of the way, I lined them up in their proper spots and allowed them to improvise. 

What resulted was a play likely better than I could’ve ever drawn up, wala, the “Pickle Roll.” 

Another example of this was on Wednesday. I had no idea what we were going to do that day. 

However, I noticed two players working on spin layups together, which inspired me to break down our team into smaller groups, emphasizing layup fundamentals. 

Discipline doesn’t always mean waking up to a screeching dovetail alarm at 6:00 AM. Sometimes it means being open to others’ ideas, understanding your way may not always be correct, and an awareness to recognize the proper decision. 

The definition of discipline may prove misleading; it’s not black and white. 


This is everything when it comes to youth sports and is somehow yet often forgotten. 

Just think back to when you were a child. Did you ever think about money, prestige, or fulfilling your parents’ dreams when playing your favorite game?

Chances are you didn’t. 

And these kids aren’t any different from you. 

They show up to practice to learn a few things, get in shape, and have a spectacular time in the process. 

While at the interview for the school I currently coach for, there was no mention of basketball strategy in the hiring process. What was inferred is that I need to create a fun, inclusive, and holistic learning environment for the student-athletes I coach. 

I will forever be grateful for this lesson.

It’s allowed me to connect with the players on a human level rather than just a mentor relationship; how else would I know one of my athletes is a “YouTube Chef”?

Being around kids invariably creates confusion, chaos, and love. 

And it’s a hell of a lot of fun!

About Nick Bartlett 133 Articles
Hello there ya wild rabbits. My name is Nick Bartlett and I’m a sportswriter, broadcast manager, and youth basketball coach. I’m from the Greater Seattle Area and a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow school at Washington State University. I’ve had over 50 articles and 10 podcasts published in Seattle PI, and my work featured on OregonLive, SportsPac12, and South Florida Tribune. You can contact me at NB206wsu@gmail.com or on twitter @WordsByBartlett. Cheetos and Tuna.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.