How to Become a Basketball Coach

Four Methods:Studying the GameFinding a Coaching JobMeeting Your TeamDealing with Game Time

Basketball is one of the most widely played team sports in the world, with dozens of countries producing world-class players through strong youth programs. With so many people embracing the sport around the globe, the need for coaching has never been greater. Becoming a hoops coach requires dedication and patience, but it has never been easier thanks to the wealth of resources at your disposal. Think basketball coaching is for you? Read on and find out!

Method 1
Studying the Game

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    Watch a lot of basketball. It seems like a simple objective, but it is by far the most important one—and not just for newcomers to the sport. Seeing how the sport is played—less as a fan, and more with an eye toward offensive and defensive setups—can give you a clearer picture of how a coach impacts the game. Study how offenses and defenses adjust to one another. Make note of when substitutions are made. Keep an eye on how players are matched up against each other. Write down everything you see, and study it every chance you get.
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    Research different offensive and defensive sets. Coaching strategies are plastered all over the Internet. They range from simple half-court sets to more complicated plays featuring backdoor cuts, swing passes and plenty of movement without the ball. Start by learning some of the basic offensive and defensive plays, with emphasis on player positioning and movement. Once you have those memorized, add more plays to your repertoire. But don’t overdo it. Having a few go-to plays when you’re just starting out is good enough.
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    Ask other basketball coaches for advice. The coaching fraternity is tight-knit, and fellow coaches are usually delighted to talk strategy and share their knowledge of the craft. Take in everything other coaches have to say. Even if you don’t agree with it, there may be some useful nuggets you can employ down the road. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions.
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    Design your own plays. Every good coach has a handful of plays he has created himself. Even if your designs don’t immediately lead to certain victory, the act of creating plays—either through drawing up something from scratch or by taking an existing strategy and modifying it—is sure to broaden your knowledge base. You can always tinker with things as necessary.

Method 2
Finding a Coaching Job

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    Look for vacancies. If you’re just starting out as a coach, you’ll likely want a low-profile position that will allow you to learn on the job. Here are some places where you are most likely to find vacancies:
    • Local youth facilities, such as the local YMCA or YWCA, are always looking for volunteers to help with leagues of all ages. This is the ideal place to start your coaching career if you’re looking for something basic.
    • Recreation centers work the same way, only with openings for adult leagues. While most leagues advertise for player openings, you could try inquiring about the opportunity to test out your coaching abilities for a rec team.
    • House leagues or summer leagues are usually more laid-back than other leagues, and are a perfect spot for someone looking for a gig that will kickstart a coaching career. These leagues offer a wide range of ages and skill levels to choose from.
    • High schools occasionally have coaching vacancies, but they are usually reserved for people with experience in the field. Unless you have a strong playing background to fall back on, it may be difficult to secure a coaching job at this level.
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    Inquire about the job specifics and time commitment. Before being able to commit to any gig, you should find out if it fits in your personal schedule. Unless it’s a paying job—and most assignments will not be—you’ll need to balance work and family time with your commitment to coaching. Get a handle on how often and when you’ll be expected to coach, and factor in additional time for practices if they’re required.
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    Choose a position and apply. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of openings, you should select the one that best fits what you hope to achieve. There will likely be paperwork (personal info, waivers, and other information) involved in finalizing a position, so make sure you fill everything in to the best of your ability.
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    Keep looking until you find something. If nothing comes up right away, be patient. Read newspapers and check postings at recreation centers regularly. Keep yourself plugged into the coaching pipeline in case another coach learns of an opening.

Method 3
Meeting Your Team

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    Introduce yourself and explain what you hope to accomplish. Keep it light; you want to gain the trust of your players as quickly as possible. Be transparent about your plans, but be willing to accept suggestions or tips. Most of all, stress the importance of having fun. Your players will be looking to you for guidance, so set a good example.
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    Ask your players for their preferred positions. Rather than simply sending everyone out on the court and letting them start playing, you should find out who enjoys playing where. At the very least, it gives you a starting point when you run your first practice.
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    Run some basic drills. Have the players do some pre-practice jogging. Encourage them to run layup lines or take jump shots. Light activity leading into a practice is a good way to prevent injury and get loose—and that goes for players of any age or skill level.
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    Have the players split into two teams and run some plays. Keep things basic at first, running simple half-court sets while focusing on instruction rather than execution. At this point, your primary goal should be to have the players moving to the right spots at the right times. Run each play until it is clear that your players understand what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to be. Then, move on to the next play.
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    Move players around as you see fit. Maybe Dave believes he should be a point guard, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be good at it. Perhaps you see Dave’s ability to move without the ball and his good mid-range shot and you decide that he would be a better small forward or shooting guard. Encourage your players to keep an open mind as you find the best fit for them. Sometimes all it takes is one or two position moves to turn your team into a world-beater.
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    Accentuate the positive. You may not like what you see at certain points of the practice, but a good coach will always find a way to highlight what players are doing correctly, even if there isn’t much to praise. Players—young or novice ones in particular—are more likely to respond positively when a coach isn’t berating them all the time.

Method 4
Dealing with Game Time

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    Start with the most well-balanced five-player group. In practice, you likely made note of the five-player unit that worked together the best. Getting off to a fast start is important in basketball, so make sure you have the optimum lineup on the floor for the opening tip. You can tinker with it as the game progresses.
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    Monitor fatigued or struggling players. Some days, a player just doesn’t play well. Other times, certain players tire more quickly than usual. Keep an eye on these developments and adjust accordingly. If your best shooter misses his or her first 7 attempts, try having someone else take the shots. If your center looks gassed running up and down the court, give a quick hook and get him or her a breather.
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    Be loud. You’re probably going to be talking to your players a lot over the course of the game, so make sure everyone can hear you, especially when the action takes place on the far end of the court. Leave no doubt as to what you want your players to do.
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    Adjust your coaching style to suit the complexion of the game. If you’re winning late, run longer possessions to chew time off the clock. If you’re behind late, quicken the offensive tempo and try to score quick baskets. If you have a one-sided lead, give all of your players a chance to see the floor (something you should be doing regardless of the score if you’re coaching in a non-competitive league). Tighten the defense on players who are making a lot of shots. Get the ball to your hot shooters. Adjust appropriately to any situation, and you’ll increase your chances of success.


  • When running a practice, be as active as your players are. Rather than point and gesticulate to make your point, demonstrate how a player should move by running through the play yourself. You can be your own best teaching tool.
  • Try to have a relationship with your team, let them know you care and that you're not just in it to win it!


  • A coach’s repartee with the officials is important. If you feel like the calls are going against you, be assertive, but do not embarrass or belittle the referee. Officials respect a coach’s right to vent, but only to a point.

Article Info

Categories: Basketball