YMCA Healthy Kids® Day

Brad MorrisMeet Brad morris

Guiding kids on and off the court

"You Can Play, But Can you Coach?"

It was a question that Brad Morris tried to ignore. But every time he was on the court at the Y, the sign spoke to him. "Growing up in Chicago, I always played ball," Brad explains. "But I didn’t really know how. I wasn’t that good."

At the Y, he’d watch the guys play basketball during open gym. "I was just standing. Watching. I wanted to play. Then one day, I stepped in." He played — terribly. But over time, he picked up skills and gained confidence. "I kept seeing that sign. It was nagging at me, and things don’t usually nag at me. I don’t have much of a conscience," he jokes.

"At the time, I had a latch-key kid living across the street from me. He wanted to play, but we didn’t have a community center nearby. That’s when I decided to coach. I figured I could give the kid a ride, and he could be on my team. I was petrified." That was 20 years ago.

"Coaching is a good release for me. I have this personality. I have to rein it in at work. Watch me coach, you’ll see the full Brad."

That he found the right calling is evident. On game day, a steady parade of players stops for a high-five. "He did pretty good today," he tells a parent. "If you could just change the way he looks, we’ll be OK." To another: "Hey, good job! Now go cause some trouble at home!" It’s all in good fun, and everybody gets it.

Brad has learned how to draw kids out who may be reticent to get in the game. He has told a player to "get on the court right now, and if you don’t make five missed baskets, you will sit out.” He explains, "If you want to try something, you have to risk failing. I never did that. If someone had told me to go out and fail, who knows? Anyone who is successful will tell you that you have to be willing to get out and fail."

Over the years, he’s seen a lot of players come and go. "I have had a lot of kids start at age 8 and then stay on to coach with me. I’ve had kids come back and coach against me. Just last week, a guy let me know I coached his son. He told me the son had a great time and thought a lot of me. The kid was 29. I was thinking: Wow, it’d be nice if one of ‘em made it to the NBA and I could get some tickets, and he’d say, 'I owe it all to my first coach.'"— posted April 2016