Coaching youth basketball with passion and positivity

With vigor and volume, Kelly Reed coaches 6th-grade boys this weekend

HIAWATHA — Amid referees’ whistles, players’ squeaking sneakers and parents’ chatter Saturday in Northwestern Mutual Iowa Sports Center, you could easily hear a grandmother with the vigor and volume of anyone who coaches anywhere.

Kelly Reed of Cedar Rapids played basketball into college. Her daughter, Micah Reed, is Grand View University’s all-time women’s basketball assists leader. Her grandson is among the hundreds of boys playing Saturday and Sunday in the Hardwood Alliance League tournament here, featuring teams from Cedar Rapids, the Quad Cities, Omaha and Des Moines.

This weekend, Kelly coached Team Iowa’s sixth-grade boys’ team because Micah was in Arizona for a bachelorettes party. She grabbed the reins with gusto.

“Boards! Boards!” she shouted while pacing the sideline during her team’s 38-20 morning loss to QC Ballerz. “Run the floor! Run the floor!”

“Get your hands up!” she shouted as her own hands were raised toward the ceiling. “Hands up!”

Before her players began a two-hour break between games, Reed took them to a corner of the facility for instruction and encouragement.

“Every one of you guys can shoot,” she said, urging them to be less hesitant to do so.


“You don’t have to force the ball low. It’s something you make happen on a pick-and-roll, not something you force to happen.

“You guys can do this, because I just watched it. For 18 of 28 minutes, you played. We were battling. Right?”

Team Iowa is a Cedar Rapids-based tryout team. Five of the seven players on Reed’s team Saturday are from Cedar Rapids-Marion. Three others were out of town and missed Saturday’s games. Two were playing baseball and another was at a soccer tourney.

Reed, a business development manager at CRST, would have been at this event anyway Saturday to watch her grandson play.

“I believe in giving back to the community,” she said, “helping youth stay out of trouble, and achieve success.

“To me, basketball is a game of passion. It takes loving it. You can’t just like basketball, because it takes a lot. Who wants to be better? Who works harder, has more passion? Some kids are naturals. Some want to work really hard. I love kids who work really hard.”

But she doesn’t browbeat. She didn’t miss a chance during the games to praise a good play or decision.

“That was the most-beautiful pass,” Reed told player Evan Kettmann of Bettendorf between games, acknowledging a play Kettman made that truly was a gem.


Team Iowa was overmatched by a Barnstormers squad in the afternoon, 64-23. That didn’t stifle Reed’s enthusiasm during the contest.

“Don’t even look at the scoreboard,” she told the boys before the game. “Play basketball, have fun. No pouting, no discouragement. You guys are going to be better tomorrow than you are today.”

Whenever I’ve thought of organized youth athletics, I’ve pictured intrusive and pushy parents, and coaches who fancy themselves commanding presences with the keenest of sports minds.

Oh, they’re out there. But it’s usually a lot easier to find people who just want their kids to have positive experiences.

“It’s a fine line between being a parent and a sideline coach,” Reed said. “I don’t mind having a positive parent on the sideline. What I do mind is a negative parent beating a child down, whether they realize they’re doing it or not.”

Playing four games in two days makes it hard enough for kids to stay focused and upbeat. So Reed mixed in plenty of compliments among her observations to her players between Saturday’s games.

“Don’t get down. You’re 11 and 12 years old. Do you expect to play like you’re in the NBA? If you do, sign me up. I want to be your agent.”

Finally, she asked them what time their next game was scheduled to start.

“1:25,” they said.

“One o’clock?” she asked.

“1:25.” they said again.

“One o’clock?” she again asked, and they got her point the second time.

They reassembled at 1.

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