Something Good: Youth First Basketball Coach Pairs Reading and Education With Competitive Sports

Rachel Jones coaches youth league basketball, but she also stresses the importance of education.

Tuesday, September 28th 2021, 7:13 pm

Rachel Jones is a basketball coach that is doing everything she can to make kids successful not just on the court, but also in the classroom. 

Jones has been coaching Swoosh for three years. 

She founded the nonprofit, Youth First, about a year ago, partnering reading and literacy with youth sports. At practices, Rachel started introducing the players to books, but it wasn't immediately embraced by the parents. 

“When I started to bring in books, I got a lot of push back from parents who just really didn’t understand the importance of it. One parent even said the kids needed to put down the books and pick up the ball,” said Jones. 

Jones stayed with her convictions and came up with a new challenge. 

“I actually made a joke and asked them if maybe their kid could dribble while they read. So, let’s see how many dribbles they can do with their right hand while they are holding the book with their left,” said Jones. 

Rachel is also the creator of the free books bookcase, a place for kids to get as many free books as they want. 

“I don’t care if a kid picks up ten books from the shelf. Whatever they want to pick up to read, whatever they are interested in. If they like dinosaurs, I’m sure they can find something, If they like Minecraft, I’m sure they can find something,” said Jones. 

Brenna Tillman plays on Rachel’s basketball team and gets books from the shelf.

“I was just looking to see if I want some. I’ll probably get the Harry Potter ones,” said Tillman. 

Now book donations are coming from unexpected places. 

“I would finish with a game, and I would go meet one of the players or parents outside from the other team to go get their book donation,” said Jones. 

Even with the reading initiative, Rachel’s teams are competitive. 

“We are also a competitive travel team. So, we go out. We got second in the best of the best which is a big national tournament in Dallas,” said Jones. 

Jones’ initiative is really taking off, through a recent donation she was able to provide more than 100 to four other states. 


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