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Coaches Corner Five Traits

Five Traits of a Successful Youth Basketball Coach

  • Date:
    Nov 12, 2019

The following excerpt from the USA Basketball Youth Development Guidebook originally was published in 2015.

For many youth basketball coaches in the United States, November ushers in another season. As you get started, USA Basketball wants to remind you of some of the most important traits for successful youth basketball coaches. 

Regardless of the level at which you are participating, coaching should be rewarding and enjoyable. To prepare yourself, take into consideration the following characteristics:

PATIENCE. Remember that you are coaching children. Young people need teaching, but they also need the opportunity and freedom to make mistakes. Your role as a coach is to teach and then help your players learn from their mistakes. Rather than expecting your players to play flawlessly, allow them to demonstrate mistakes. This approach requires a substantial amount of patience but will maximize long-term player and team development.

EMOTIONAL MATURITY. Even when young children are playing, basketball games can become heated. It is your duty to act like a responsible adult under any circumstance. This means keeping your temper under control, even if you know you are right in a particular situation. Your dealings with players, officials, parents, scorekeepers and others are under a microscope as a leader, and it will require you to demonstrate restraint in all situations.

BASKETBALL KNOWLEDGE. You need to develop an understanding of fundamentals, rules and various strategies based on the level you are working with. Introductory levels of play will require only basic education, but it also will require a deeper sense of your impact on a beginner’s continued involvement in the sport. Advanced levels will require deeper basketball education as well as a more philosophical approach to coaching. The USA Basketball Youth Development Guidebook and online resources at can serve as a valuable resource to you as you develop as a coach.

TIME COMMITMENT. Games certainly are important, but being a successful coach involves more than showing up for the game. To be effective, you will need to organize and execute practices, provide fundamental skill instruction, decide on playing time, communicate frequently with players and parents, and much more. Coaching is a commitment of your time to the development of players both on and off the court. Make the full commitment to coaching. It will maximize the benefit to your players and make the experience more rewarding for you.

PRIORITIZE. Winning can be a healthy goal, but striving to win is where lessons are learned regardless of the final score. A truly effective coach will evaluate a team’s level of play, will set attainable goals and then will assess outcomes based on development rather than on wins or losses. Identify your players’ values and establish your values as a coach, then use those values as guiding principles in prioritizing team and player goals. Perhaps you are coaching a recreation team and a goal is for everyone to play equal time, or maybe your coaching at the high school level and a goal is to win a state title. In either case, make the journey to achieve the goal a priority.

VIDEO: And, his advice was as relevant in 2014, when he was winning gold medals, as it is in 2019, as he serves as the USA Basketball Youth & Sport Development coach director  -- hear from Don Showalter about emphasizing fun. 



Find more information at USA Basketball Youth Development Guidebook and become a USA Basketball Licensed Coach at


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