Volunteer Coach Julian Griffith Finds Success On and Off the Court

YMCA AAU Youth Basketball Team celebrates a tournament win.

We are always looking for more awesome volunteer coaches. If interested, contact Patrick Dugan, Association Sports Director.  

Julian Griffith has already sent out text messages, made some calls and somewhat planned out his schedule for this.

The summer Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball season, when Griffith coached the YMCA of Greater Brandywine’s under-13 (U13) team, is over, but Griffith still stays in contact with his players. They’re at an impressionable age, and he wants to make sure that the coaching doesn’t stop once things leave the court.

“I’m in contact with a few players, making sure they’re doing the right things in class, making sure they’re obedient toward their parents,” Griffith said. “We haven’t done anything for basketball because it’s time for them to focus on their schoolwork. Some of them play football, so I plan on attending some of their football games with their families.”

It’s all part of the commitment that Griffith, one of the Y’s most well-liked volunteer coaches, makes to his players. To an extent, it’s surprising to him, because he never really envisioned having such an impact.

“Looking back at it, I never thought that I’d be at the Y this long, let alone that I’d make a big impact on a lot of these kids’ lives,” Griffith explained. “I’ve had a lot of parents come to me and say, ‘we love how our son or daughter interacted with you. They talk about you so much and we want to thank you for what you’ve done.’ It’s a lot of those kind words from families that keep me wanting to come back.”

Breaking into Coaching

Griffith graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep in 2008, and that summer, he got involved at the Y as a camp counselor. The idea of working with children drew him in, especially as he saw an opportunity to help improve those kids’ lives.

“I love working with kids. That’s the main reason I’ve been at the Y,” Griffith said. “It’s awesome to work with them and see them grow and prosper, bettering themselves and making good lifestyle changes.”

If there’s one thing he gravitates to, though, it’s basketball. It’s always been a focal point of his life. He played a season at the Prep and was good enough to garner college looks despite only playing AAU ball after his freshman year, but a rotator cuff injury ended his chances of playing at the next level.

Griffith knows that he could have probably had a strong high school career if he stayed at his public school, Garnet Valley. The Jaguars would have likely given him more opportunities, but even despite the fact that he didn’t play as much as he’d have liked for the Hawklets, he harbors no regrets.

“I think I probably could have been a 1,000-point scorer at Garnet Valley and probably could have had a nice career, but I didn’t want something given to me,” Griffith said. “I wanted to earn it. In the long run, I learned a lot more by going to a school where I had to work hard and play against guys that had the spot I wanted. I’m happy with the decision I made. If I had stayed at Garnet Valley, I think things would have been given to me more easily.”

“All of my kids know my story,” Griffith detailed. “It takes hard work to get what you want. If you want to be lazy and not put your heart and soul into it, you’re not going to get what you want.”

Seeing Results

The Y’s AAU basketball team came to fruition in 2015, and Griffith didn’t get involved only because he didn’t know about it. A year later, he made sure that everyone knew he was interested. AAU basketball had taken him to places like Washington (D.C.), Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Florida, and it was a monumental part of his development both on and off the court.

He had an immediate impact on the AAU program. This summer, Griffith’s U13 team broke through and won its first championship. That turned into a rallying point for his team, serving as further motivation and tangible proof that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do.

“The boys were clicking and their chemistry was off the charts,” Griffith said. “They loved playing with each other. After that, they weren’t satisfied with just one. They wanted to stay at a high level and always wanted to make sure they’re in the playoffs.”

There’s no reason to believe that Griffith won’t be able to continue his success, particularly with how devoted and dedicated he is. It’s surreal to think that his success stemmed from one summer as a camp counselor, but it’s clear that he’s found the perfect spot for him.

“My advice to anyone coaching at the Y is to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons,” Griffith said. “Don’t just be there for wins. The main purpose is to make a difference, regardless of the score. If you’re dedicated to giving time and effort to those kids, you see them become better players, and you know you’re doing the right job.”

“Make sure you throw in some life lessons in there,” Griffith added. “You have to make sure you handle every person differently. Every child is different and learns differently. Some learn fast, some learn slow, but if you’re able to see how to help a child learn, they’ll want to play more, and you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.”

He knows from experience.