How to Become a Basketball Coach (11-Step Guide)

how-to-become-a-basketball-coach

Coaching young people at the youth and high school level is an important job.

Aside from teaching the skills and fundamentals of basketball, a great basketball coach can have a tremendous impact on the life of a child.

The coaching community is in need of quality role models to enter the profession… and more importantly, young people are in need of these role models.

We need more people learning how to become a basketball coach!

But how does a person begin his or her coaching career?

Maybe you aspire to one day be a high school head coach, or maybe you would simply like to help out at the local community center.

Regardless of your coaching aspirations, there are several ways to give yourself the best chance of finding your “dream job.”

Below I’ll explain how…

How to Become a Basketball Coach

1. Find Your “WHY”

An important question to consider when starting your coaching career is:

“Why do I want to coach?”

The answer to that question may help you determine the best level for you.

For example, if your goal is to make a lot of money, you probably won’t be happy at the youth or high school levels. But if your passion is making a difference in the lives of young people, the younger levels could be perfect for you.

The decision between the youth and high school levels can be a difficult one.

There are pros and cons to each level.

Youth Basketball

At the youth level, you get to see players improve rapidly as they learn the game for the first time. Many youth teams don’t practice every day, so it is easier to schedule practices around other obligations. However, if you enjoy high-level competition and advanced offensive and defensive execution, you may want to move up to a higher level.

High School

High school coaches usually have more practice time and more leeway to implement Xs and Os they like, and the high school level can be very competitive. However, this means there is far more pressure. It’s also a bigger time commitment, so your work schedule and family commitments must be considered.

2. Get Your Foot in the Door

Regardless of your preferred coaching destination, you have to start somewhere.

Few, if any, coaches start immediately with a varsity head coaching position.

Most learn the basics on how to become a basketball coach at the youth level.

If you’re humble enough to start there, you’ll be pleased to know that many schools and community leagues are always looking for help.

You will have to volunteer at first, but it is a great way to gain experience.

There is another advantage of starting at the youth level…

It makes you a better coach!

Because the players are younger and the game is newer to them, you must learn to teach the game simply and clearly. This skill will serve you well if you choose to advance to higher levels later.

Plus, working with young kids is extremely fun and rewarding!

3. Attend Basketball Clinics and Basketball Camps

A large part of the coaching opportunities you get will come down to two factors:

a. WHAT you know

b. WHO you know

Coaches should always continue expanding their knowledge of the game.

Even the best coaches are constantly seeking out new ideas.

The good news is that it has never been easier to learn about the game.

There are many resources available online and on social media.

It’s also good to attend some coaching clinics.

Basketball coaching clinics are an excellent way to hear experienced coaches share their knowledge while meeting and networking with other coaches.

You may also consider volunteering at a basketball camp.

This could be at your local high school or even at a college.

Many colleges look for young coaches to help out at their youth camps, and some even pay their helpers.

These camps give you some extra coaching experience and are great networking opportunities.

4. Find a Basketball Mentor

This is a crucial part of coaching development.

Coaching is naturally a profession of service.

If you’re willing to reach out, there are likely plenty of coaches in your area who would love to share ideas and help you get your basketball coaching career started.

One idea is to seek out a recently retired coach.

This person might have more free time than someone currently coaching, and would have years of experience to share with you.

If you don’t know of a retired coach, contact some local high school coaches who you respect.

Most would be happy to go out to lunch or engage in a phone conversation.

basketball coach

5. Become an Assistant Coach

Most head coaches began their careers as assistants.

Assistant coaches are tremendously important to the success of a program and often have more time to focus on player development.

Seek out the best coaches in your area and find out if they are looking for assistants.

A good head coach can give you a big knowledge boost as you study how to become a basketball coach, and they could also serve as a great reference as you try to move up the coaching ladder.

Look for someone whose style you may like to emulate and who will give you an important role on the coaching staff.

Assistant coaching positions may or may not be paid, but they are crucial in advancing your career.

6. Specialize in One Specific Area

As you seek out potential assistant coaching jobs, it’s helpful to specialize in at least one particular area.

From a head coach’s perspective, it’s nice to have assistants who are experts in different parts of the game.

For example, if you are a phenomenal shooting coach, you can immediately add value to any program in that area. The same is true if you are an excellent defensive technician.

One of the most famous assistant coaches who had a specialty was Tex Winter, the master of the Triangle Offense. He was Phil Jackson’s sidekick for many years.

This doesn’t mean you can neglect the other aspects of the game, of course...

You must continue to learn and grow in all areas.

You can also enhance a program by becoming an expert in some off-the-court skills.

Running a high school program requires many elements outside of on the court coaching:

  • Scouting
  • Fundraising
  • Running social media accounts
  • Promoting players to colleges
  • etc.

If you excel in one of these areas, that can help you earn an assistant’s job and eventually become a head coach.

7. No Job is Too Small

Once you have your foot in the door as a youth coach or as a high school assistant, do absolutely everything possible to add value to your program.

Some coaches fail because they look down on seemingly minor tasks.

Be grateful for all opportunities you get!

If your head coach needs someone to run the clock at practice, do it willingly.

If a player needs a rebounder, volunteer to rebound and pass.

If the floor needs to be swept, grab a broom.

These things will make a good impression on your head coach and your players.

These tasks may seem small but they need done and doing them makes your team better.

8. Clean Up Your Resume

Basketball coaching jobs, especially at the high school varsity level, can be difficult to get.

Depending on your area and the quality of the job, there could be dozens of applicants.

As with any job, an applicant’s resume plays an important part in receiving an interview and a potential job offer.

When putting your resume together, consider what skills you have that might set you apart from other applicants.

Is there something tangible that shows your impact on a basketball program?

For example, consider this line on a resume:

“As our program’s defensive coach, I helped improve our team’s points allowed from 65 points per game in 2018-2019 to 52 points per game in 2019-2020.”

This line stands out because it proves you have had success in your role.

If you don’t have specific successes like that example, do your best to highlight what skills you will bring to a basketball program.

Remember to be honest but to emphasize what you do well.

basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

9. Create a Coaching Portfolio

Before you start to receive interviews, it’s important to prepare a coaching portfolio.

This could be an important part of the interview process and could also help you clarify your coaching philosophy and program plan.

There is no “right” way to create a portfolio.

However, most coaches include:

  • Their standards/values
  • Coaching philosophy
  • Expectations on the court
  • Expectations in the classroom
  • Offensive/defensive ideas
  • etc

If you are preparing to interview for a head coaching position, be sure to include ways to develop your middle school and youth players as well.

Remember to connect your portfolio to the specific needs of the program.

For example, if the program has previously struggled with discipline, you might want to emphasize your team standards and how you hold players accountable to those expectations.

10. Prepare For Your Interview

Your interview is your big opportunity to make an impression and land your dream job.

Do your best to prepare so that you can remain calm during the interview.

Do some research on the school and program.

  • What might they be looking for?
  • Is it a successful program, or have they been struggling?
  • Why did the previous coach leave?

Be prepared to answer questions about your philosophy, ability to connect with kids, running a K-12 program (if applicable), conducting tryouts, and dealing with difficult parents.

While your preferred Xs and Os could come into play, keep in mind that many members of the interview committee may have little basketball knowledge.

Administrators often care more about behind the scenes aspects of running a program than specific offenses and defenses.

  • How does the coach communicate?
  • Can he or she cooperate with other coaches in our school?
  • Does he or she carry themself like a professional?
  • Does the coach encourage players to excel academically?
  • How does he or she deal with angry parents?

Be ready to discuss these kinds of questions.

Remember to dress professionally, and, most importantly, be yourself!

Ultimately, you want to find a job that is a great fit for you.

Be honest, be yourself, and articulate your vision clearly.

11. Be Patient

Getting a head coaching job takes some time and often requires some good luck.

There may be some rejection and frustration along the way.

Do your best to enjoy each step of the process and make a positive impact on the lives of the players you get to coach.

Use your time spent moving up the ladder to learn, gain experience, and make a difference.

The best way to get a better job is to make an impact at your current job.

Remember that ALL coaching opportunities have value, regardless of role and level, because they provide us with opportunities to teach the game and build quality young people.

Quick Summary:

1. Find Your "WHY"

2. Get Your Foot in the Door

3. Attend Basketball Clinics and Basketball Camps

4. Find a Basketball Mentor

5. Become an Assistant Coach

6. Specialize in One Specific Area

7. No Job is Too Small

8. Clean Up Your Resume

9. Create a Coaching Portfolio

10. Prepare For Your Interview

11. Be Patient

Conclusion

Before you leave, there’s one more important thing to know…

Former playing experience is not a requirement to start your journey learning how to become a basketball coach.

While playing experience certainly helps, there have been plenty of excellent coaches who did not play the game at a high level.

Coaching requires a completely different skill set than playing.

So if you’re a person who loves basketball and would like to make a difference in the lives of young people, you can be a successful basketball coach!

You just need passion, knowledge, commitment, and some good fortune.

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