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Youth Coach

5 Characteristics Of a Successful Youth Basketball Coach

  • Date:
    May 24, 2016

The following is an excerpt from the USA Basketball Youth Development Guidebook. For more information on the Guidebook, click here.

There are many reasons why an individual has decided to become a basketball coach. Some of us are former players who are looking to give back or stay involved in the game. Some of us have children who play and we volunteer to coach their team. Others are asked to coach within their community to fill a need. There are also coaches, often referred to as trainers, who workout players in the offseason but don’t coach them in games. Whatever your reason, coaching young players requires a high level of responsibility and maturity.

Coaching young players should be thrilling, exciting, rewarding and fun. To prepare yourself, take into consideration the following characteristics that make for a successful youth coach:

PATIENCE.  Remember that you are coaching kids. Young people need teaching but they also need the opportunity and freedom to make mistakes. Your role as 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 at foundational levels of play, 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 when you know that 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.  As the coach of a team, group or individual, you will 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 will also 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. This guidebook and our online resources at will serve as a valuable resource to you as you develop as a coach.

TIME COMMITMENT.  Games are certainly important, but being a good coach involves more than simply 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.


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