Reflections on Youth Basketball: What is Most Important?

A few weeks ago I witnessed a 5th grade girls basketball game. One team was up by over 20 in the last minute of the game. Their coach was yelling at them to get back into their box-and-1 defense. This troubled me because of my philosophy on youth basketball.

I would first like to say that I am speaking strictly as an observer. I have no knowledge of the situation or why the coach had his team playing that way. Maybe he has great reasons that I am unaware of. My observation was that this coach wanted his team to first and foremost win the game. This may be the greatest problem with youth basketball in the modern day. On many occasions, parents and coaches are too consumed with winning and do not have the kids’ best interest in mind. Personally, I think teaching a 5th grade team how to play a box-and-1 means that the goal here was to win at any cost rather than to improve the defensive fundamentals of the team.

It is my philosophy that in coaching youth basketball, we should be primarily focused on engagement and teaching.


Young players must learn to enjoy the process of improvement, teamwork, and learning. If we base our coaching of youth on results, we will give them the idea that results are all that matter. Sports are beneficial for teaching values. Some of the most important values we can use sports to teach are resiliency, diligence, teamwork, and selflessness. We need to engage our athletes so they are able to focus on the right things that sports offer.


Before we encourage a strong spirit of competitiveness, we need to teach our athletes the basics. Without fundamental skills, we will not be able to compete at the level which we need to. I do think it’s important to keep score in games so that players understand what winning and losing is. But during a game, we must remain focused on teaching what is important, both skill wise and value wise. If we let the outcome be the primary objective, we may lose sight of our purpose for coaching.


Matt Espinoza

A basketball coach with an interest in visual arts. Living to share the love of Jesus with my words, actions, and service.