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USA Basketball’s Coach Licensing Program Is Rapidly Growing

  • Author:
    Gary R. Blockus, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Oct 1, 2018

It takes more than just a whistle and some basic knowledge of the game to become a youth basketball coach.

Since 2015, USA Basketball has helped coaches get educated on the off-court aspects of the game in rolling out its Coach License program.

“We began the licensing program in February of 2015 as a pilot program,” explained USA Basketball Youth Division Director Jay Demings.

That first season certified about 500 coaches, who went through an online set of components that included registering, completing online courses in youth development and how to communicate with children, education on child and sex abuse awareness and criminal background checks.

Since then, the licensing program has grown astronomically. For 2015-16, the number of coaches licensed jumped tenfold to 5,000. In 2016-17, almost 20,000 coaches were licensed. The most recent license season, which expired on August 31, saw 25,000 coaches earn the grade.

Because it’s a youth coaching license, Demings said USA Basketball decided on having a static expiration date for renewal. September was the start of the new season’s license and renewal phase, timed appropriately for youth leagues.

“It marks the beginning of high school basketball season and club ball,” Demings said. “So before you start your academic year, you can earn your license or re-up it.”

Demings said the big jump in licensing for the 2016-17 season was due to the NCAA adopting it as a requirement to coach in NCAA-sanctioned club events. The NCAA-specific requirement adheres to the NCAA Basketball Certification System requirements.

“We have a lot of people coaching high-school-aged club teams in the summer,” Demings said. “For NCAA college coaches to recruit at those events, the events have to be certified by the NCAA. The best part is, because those coaches are required to have it, we’re now starting to see coaches of younger-aged club teams obtain a license.”

To obtain and maintain a license, coaches must pass a criminal background check to help ensure a safe environment. Verified Volunteers, a leading background check agency, runs the screening and updates each coach’s screening every 30 days.

“We review all information against our USA Basketball disqualifying criteria to determine whether or not that person can get or maintain a coaching license,” Demings said. “We list all criteria on the USA Basketball website, but our main goal is to determine whether or not the applicant poses a risk to the sport and its athletes.”

If a coach is denied a license, there is an appeals process, and he or she can re-apply the next season.

Two types of USA Basketball licenses are available for people with valid U.S. Social Security numbers: Associate Coach and Gold Coach. Additionally, the USA Basketball Gold Coach license offers an international certification for applicants without a valid U.S. Social Security number.

Both license levels offer recognized affiliation, coaching and education safety, a listing on the USA Basketball digital platform, coaching insurance, tools and resources for coaching, plus background screening through Verified Volunteers. Physcial license cards are available for purchase, and coaches can choose whether or not to make their license profiles public.

Demings said the first time coaches take the course online, it takes about 90 minutes. The renewal process takes about 30 minutes.

“We change the courses up a little bit each season to keep them relevant,” he said. “We really try to stay open-minded and flexible, understanding that we are coming into a space and trying to serve folks who may have been previously required to have little or no training as a basketball coach.

“We made the process fairly basic to start and, as time goes on, we will make the program a little more dynamic. We might prescribe a course or two and eventually have a menu where you can take ‘X’ amount of courses for credits that are relevant to your needs. We’re not there yet.”

USA Basketball is among the first national governing bodies to require SafeSport training for those seeking to join its coaching program. The U.S. Center for SafeSport is an independent organization that works with the U.S. Olympic Committee to eliminate all forms of abuse from athletics.

While USA Basketball encourages any coach interested to get licensed, it’s not yet a requirement across all organizations.

“We don’t control all of basketball,” Demings said. “For mass adoption, we will continue to rely on large groups like the NCAA as well as youth-centric organizations to require the license for people who coach in their eco-system. We’ll continue to offer the program and pitch the value of a license to all groups. The license itself won’t make you the best coach, but it does provide a base set of standards that we can all build upon”

Building a solid base of coaches and having all basketball organizations buy into the program won’t happen overnight, but it is no doubt continuing to grow.

More information about the USAB Coach License program can be found at this link.


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