A Beginner’s Guide to Coaching Your Kid’s School Basketball Team

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Youth basketball is one of the best organized sports that you will find anywhere in the world today. Starting from a pre-school age and going all the way up to the college level, there are opportunities aplenty for you to be involved as a parent with your child’s basketball team. All you need to have is some knowledge of the game, some coaching skills, and be willing to dedicate time to the development process.

Becoming a basketball coach can be more than just a volunteer opportunity for your child’s recreational league team. It can be a real opportunity to start a second career. If you just want to coach for a season or two of youth basketball, then some knowledge about safety and offensive/defensive sets will get you through.

If you want to take coaching seriously, however, and you want to play an active role in the youth development of your community with this sport, then it is highly recommended that you become a licensed and accredited coach. In the USA, all coach licensing and accreditation is handled by USA Basketball.

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Licensed and Accredited Coach?

Many youth programs and school districts are requiring that all coaches become licensed and accredited before they can begin teaching the game of basketball to local kids. This includes volunteer opportunities. That means the primary benefit of becoming a coach with the appropriate accreditation is that you can become active in your local programs.

Each coach licensing opportunity from USA basketball offers a number of additional benefits that are worth considering as well.

Here are the benefits of becoming an accredited associate coach.

  • You receive recognized affiliation from a respected basketball organization.
  • You are given coaching skills and safety education materials to help keep kids safe.
  • A coaching guidebook allows you to be able to learn the basics of basketball coaching.
  • A licensure card guarantees your affiliation and accreditation.
  • You’re given access to tools and resources that can be used at the youth level.
  • You gain access to team and event insurance opportunities, including general liability insurance for your coaching activities.

The ability to secure general liability insurance through USA Basketball is a benefit that is often overlooked, but one of the best things you can have as a basketball coach. If you instruct a child to play a certain way and that results in an injury, the parents of that child could file a negligence lawsuit against you. The insurance policy would give you some financial protections in that unfortunate circumstance.

In some states, such as Washington and Alaska, coaching is sometimes viewed as an independent contracting arrangement. This means you’d be effectively running a business as part of your coaching efforts. To obtain licensure at a state level, you’d need documentation of this insurance policy in order to begin coaching.

Here are the benefits of becoming a Gold coach through USA Basketball.

  • You receive all of the benefits that an associate coach would receive.
  • You receive a Gold license card.
  • You gain access to premium content that is offered by the licensing and accreditation program.
  • Any request that you have of the organization is given a priority status.

What Is the Process of Becoming a Basketball Coach?

USA Basketball provides two different coaching accreditation opportunities. You can either become a Gold coach or an Associate coach. Each has different benefits that are outlined through this link: https://www.usab.com/youth/development/coach/benefits-to-becoming-a-licensed-coach.aspx

In order for your coaching journey to begin, you must be able to first pass a background check. This information is often required for all parks and rec basketball leagues as well. National coaching accreditation often involves a local-level and national-level background check and the cost of each is usually the responsibility of the coach.

Once all of your information is in order, then you simply create an account and register as a coach. You would then select the license type that you wish to obtain. Then there are courses you will be required to take in order to satisfy the requirements of the coaching accreditation and licensing process.

Many coaching programs, including the USA Basketball program, can be completed online.

Once your background screen has been approved and you have completed the required courses for your preferred coaching accreditation, you will be automatically approved for that license for the entire season. USA Basketball’s season runs from August 31-August 30 each year and must be renewed annually.

Are There Benefits to Enrolling in a Coach’s Academy?

Numerous programs offer local coaching academies, allowing you to see what it’s like to be a youth basketball coach. You often get the opportunity to practice coaching kids in real-life game scenarios in these academies. It is an experience that is well worth your time, effort, and investment if you are serious about coaching this game.

One of the best coaching academies in the United States is the USA Basketball Coach Academy. It’s a program that is sponsored by Nike and it offers live training to coaches. This makes it possible to gain valuable insights into how the game is taught, read, and played. As an extra benefit, coaches in the academy get to learn the curriculum in a hands-on way so that it can be more relevant and meaningful than an online program.

USA Basketball also brings in several guest coaches to talk about the various techniques that are used both on and off the court. Coaches do more than teach basketball. They bring in meaningful life skills that kids can use for the rest of their lives.

Before signing up for a coach’s academy, it is important to make sure that you have an opportunity to receive accreditation and licensure at the conclusion of the program. Some programs allow you to complete the training, but require you to go to another organization to get the accreditation you need to begin coaching.

For further questions about coaching and youth development, USA Basketball has put together a full model and guide book for coaches to reference. You can access this information through this link: https://www.usab.com/youth/development/youth-development-guidebook.aspx

What If I Want to Coach in the NCAA, NAIA, or Another College League?

Collegiate coaching is treated a little differently than other forms of youth coaching. Your coaching application, credentials, and learning process must also be approved by the NCAA Enforcement Certification and Approvals Group.

The NCAA has approved the Gold Licensing Program through USA Basketball as an authorized provider of accreditation for collegiate sports.

Collegiate coaching requires an independent background check that is different than the standard youth coaching programs offered by USA Basketball. Even if you have a valid background check, you’ll need to complete another screening. Some states or counties in the US also have pass-through fees that need to be paid as part of the screening process.

The process of obtaining a Gold coaching accreditation for collegiate coaching is the same as it is for other coaching opportunities. The difference is that a complete process, spelled out in the ECAG user manual, must be followed in addition to the other safety and organizational course work that is required.

This makes the path toward becoming a coach a bit longer and more strenuous, but it will also help you become a better teacher of the game at all skill levels.

The Skills to Teach When Coaching Youth Basketball

When you become a youth basketball coach, no matter what your accreditation might be, it is important that you always begin with the basics. Until you get to know your players, you must assume that every player requires you to teach them the fundamentals of this game. Unless you’re coaching high school basketball with your kids, age does not influence the fundamentals at the beginning as you begin to get to know your team.

There are three basic levels of skill that youth coaches teach to their teams. I’ve broken those levels down into generic age groups for easy reference, but it is important to note that younger children can be at Level 3 and high school players can be at Level 1. It is up to you to evaluate their skills as a coach.

  • Level 1 Skills: Generally Ages 7-10. At this level, you’re teaching kids the very basics of basketball. You’re going to be practicing layups with two hands. The goal should be to use their strong and weak hands equally to make baskets. You’ll also want to teach proper jumping techniques, like jumping from the dominate foot or taking off with the correct foot on a layup. You’ll also be teaching basic passing, dribbling, and footwork skills. Defensive stances, shooting form, and conceptual drills are also important at this level.
  • Level 2 Skills:Generally Ages 10-12. At this level, kids are more advanced with their skills in the game. That means your role is to help them become progressively better. You’ll be showing them how to make different cuts. You’ll be forming more advanced plays that can be run on the court. Offensive moves, defensive positioning, and advanced passing techniques are also part of this level. It’s also a good opportunity to begin teaching full-court pressing, man-to-man defenses, and good ball-handling decisions.
  • Level 3 Skills: Generally Ages 12+. At this level, you’re going to want all offensive drills to be contested. You’re going to want to run several defensive drills, both zone and man-to-man. You’ll be introducing more than just a basic 2-3 zone as well, adding ideas like the Box-and-1. Really emphasize shooting form and what it means to take a good shot. Add screens to offensive plays, drill box-out rebounding techniques, and focus on spacing for offensive and defensive sets. There is much more motion added to the offense at this level so far.

Even when you coach collegiate-level basketball, the first couple of days in practice cover the Level 1 skills. Without these fundamentals, the additional skills will not be effective in a game-time situation. By making sure your players can do the basics right, you can have confidence in their ability to get the rest of it right as well.

That means you’ll need to create practice plans for your youth athletes, no matter what their age may be, so you can evaluate their skills. HoopsU as a basketball practice plan template that you can access through this link: http://hoopsu.com/basketball-practice-plan-template/

Life Skills and Basketball

Have you ever heard that some kids are “coachable”? This means that a child has a specific set of traits that makes it possible for them to give you their undivided attention. As kids get older, some become less teachable, but for most youth basketball programs, every kid is coachable in their own way.

If you are evaluating a talent pool, however, these are the traits that you’ll want to look for as you’re evaluating the skills and personalities of each player.

  • Basketball has moments that require individual brilliance, but it is mostly a game that is based on a positive team attitude. Kids need to admit that they don’t know everything and cannot do everything within this sport. Without this trait, it may be next to impossible to teach that child what they need to know in order to improve their game.
  • Players need to have a specific goal to achieve while playing basketball. Maybe they want to improve their jump shot or their defensive skills. Without a goal, there isn’t really a purpose to this sport. Basketball is more than about winning a game. It’s about learning how to win at life.
  • Because basketball is a team sport, kids need to learn that there are moments when they won’t be in full control of their destiny. Passing to the open player instead of taking a contested shot will improve the team’s chances of scoring by 67%. To improve their game, kids need to accept a certain amount of uncertainty. That open player might not hit the shot.
  • Kids and their parents are putting their faith in you as their coach. They must also put faith in their teammates. If there is no trust in you or the rest of the team, then a player will try to do everything on their own. Encourage players to have faith in the process, even if that means a loss or two happens. Games are important, but the lessons learned from these games are even more important.

Kids take on the personality of their coach. That means it is up to you to be consistent, competitive, and humble on a consistent basis. Everyone can coach youth basketball, but not everyone can coach it well. Focus on these key points and you can definitely be one of those good coaches.

Equipment Recommendations for Youth Basketball Coaches

Especially in youth programs, the work of getting dressed for practices or games takes place at home. From a coaching standpoint, however, there are still some areas of concern that you’ll want to look at before sending your players out on the court.

How does the clothing fit? Basketball is a game of motion and agility. Players need to be able to move as efficiently as possible. This means all shirts, basketball shorts, shoes, and undergarments must be properly fitted to their body type and size. Not every family can afford the best basketball gear, but it is your job as the coach to communicate basic fitting expectations for the gear that can be provided.

How does the clothing function? Different kids have different styles that they like to express on the court. This may include compression sleeves, knee braces and sleeves, ankle supports, and other undergarments, tights, and support equipment. Since lots of pro players wear functional items, kids think they need to wear them as well. You may need to limit non-essential items so that your team can focus on the game instead of the arm sleeve that keeps falling down.

How safe is the equipment? Up to 30% of kids will experience at least one injury to the face or the head over the course of a playing season. This means one of the most essential pieces of gear that your players can have is a mouthguard. Although you and I may not have worn them while playing basketball, it is recommended for all players at every age level to wear one today. If you get any sponsorship money for your team, consider investing into a high quality mouthguard for your players like this one: Click here to compare pricing on Amazon and get an awesome deal.

Are You Ready to Begin Coaching Today?

Coaching your kid’s youth basketball team is a rite of passage for many parents. It can be a very rewarding experience, especially if you can begin to pick-up a win here and there. Basketball teaches sharing, individual skill development, and close relationships. As you teach game skills, you’ll also be imparting life skills.

Not every program requires licensure and accreditation, but it may be a useful process to consider for all coaches. Follow these steps here and hopefully you’ll be able to lead your team to success in the future.

Be sure to read our guide to getting started, too!