Youth First basketball coach combines reading and education with competitive sports

Rachel Jones is a basketball coach who does everything she can to make children successful not only 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, combining reading and literacy with sports for young people. During practice, Rachel started to introduce the books to the players, but this was not immediately adopted by the parents.

“When I first started bringing back books, I got a lot of feedback from parents who just didn’t understand the importance of them. One parent even said the kids should put the books down and pick up the ball, ”Jones said.

Jones stuck to his beliefs and took on a new challenge.

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

Rachel is also the creator of the Free Book Library, a place where kids can get as many free books as they want.

“I don’t care if a child takes ten books off the shelf. Whatever they want to read, whatever interests them. If they like dinosaurs I’m sure they can find something, if they like Minecraft I’m sure they can find something, “Jones said.

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

“I was just looking to see if I wanted it. I’ll probably have the Harry Potter ones, ”Tillman said.

Now, book donations come from unexpected places.

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

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

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

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

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