Making a Coaching Program

Before taking on that new head coaching position, ask yourself these questions:

  • How will it impact my family?

  • Will I have the support of the school's administration?

    • Do I have a passion for the game?

    • Do I have the energy, the desire, and good health to take this on?

    • What will I get from doing this? How will this benefit me?

    • What can I give to others by doing this?

    • What are my priorities and goals? What's important?

    • What is my coaching philosophy?

These questions are not meant to scare you away! We need dedicated coaches willing to help young people down the right path, while teaching the game of basketball. But these are things you should consider.

Taking over a program

First, make sure you have the support of administration. Hopefully, they feel that what you want to accomplish is important for the school and their students.

Taking over a successful program... perhaps the old, beloved coach just retired. You are the new guy or girl in town. You may feel more pressure to win in taking over this kind of a program. You may feel more strapped into following a certain style of play... the style that has been successful here for the past number of years. Of course the advantage of taking over such a program is that much is already in place. Talent is there; school pride and support, and that winning attitude are already on board. Players know what it's like to work hard, and will work in the off-season.

Taking over a win-less program... in this situation, usually there is less pressure to be immediately successful, and you can insist on being in charge of things. But the school and community must know that things do not improve in one season (usually), and that you need a time commitment of several years to bring the program along.

Having a "system"

Here we are talking about your basketball coaching philosophy. How do you want to play the game... fast tempo, full-court pressing, or more of a slow-down deliberate style? Or are you willing to completely change from year to year based on the talent you have? Whatever is your style, you must have your own "system". Teach this system all the way through your program, including at the junior varsity and freshmen levels. But don't be over-bearing. Allow your other coaches to put in some of their own plays too.

Developing talent and work ethic

It starts with teaching fundamentals and having a good work ethic. In Premier and middle school practices, probably 80% of practice time should be devoted to learning fundamentals. As kids get older, the percentages change a bit with more time spent on team skills. But even at the high school level, we spend at least 50% of our practice time working on fundamentals. Planning practices is vital. 

Each player (and coach) owes it to the others to practice and play as hard as he/she can. Players must be willing to work in the off-season. Players must develop the discipline to do every drill in every practice the right way, and to compete every day in practice. Of course this doesn't always happen... but it's a goal.

Summer camps, team camps, individual camps are all important. We encourage the kids to just get out in the driveway and practice outside when the weather is nice.

Setting goals

Set challenging goals for your program, your teams, and individual players. Then have a plan to accomplish each of these goals. These goals will depend on where you are with your program. Winning the state championship...maybe not. Winning the conference... maybe. Winning over 50% of your games this year, league title next year... yes! Whatever they are, have something you are looking to achieve.


Rumors and suspicion oftentimes start because of poor communication. Let people know what you are thinking (in general, without a lot of specifics).

Communicate with your players as a group and one-on-one. The coach-player relationship is a vital aspect of your entire program. Players need to know that you care about them, not only as players, but as individuals. Maintain an "open door" policy.

Before the season starts, meet with each player individually about goals, expectations, etc. Have occasional team meetings to discuss "issues". Ask players for their input.

Communicate with your coaches and assistants. Encourage them to offer their ideas, but not to be offended if you stay with your own thoughts. You don't want "yes men"... you want assistants who come up with ideas, but at the same time realize that what the boss says goes, and are willing to support you and accept your decisions.

Communicate with your school's administration and athletic director. Keep the faculty informed and gain their support. Ask them to inform you of players not attending class or not completing assignments. A motivational talk from you and a few extra sprints and lane slides, or some bench-time, can help revive a student's classroom attitude.

Keep the lines of communication open to parents. At the initial meeting, coaches are introduced, expectations, goals, policies, rules, etc are discussed. 95% of parents are good people who care about their kids. Always respect that, and try to be on good terms, always showing concern and caring for their child, whether he/she is a great player or not. Unhappy parents can make you unhappy.

Maintain balance

The late coach Al McGuire once said, "Don't let coaching become your mistress." In other words, maintain balance in your life and don't always choose basketball over your family, and everything else. Also remember that at the high school and middle school levels, kids and parents may not be as fanatical, r "gung-ho", about basketball as you are. Allow them to be kids and have balance in their own lives to.

 Advice for a Successful Program:

  • Surround yourself with good people.

  • Surround yourself with passionate people.

  • The "Road to Greatness" says, "I have very little ability to finish anything on my own but if we get together, we can accomplish much."

  • Do not allow anyone to come in and break up the family unity. A TEAM must be protected and nurtured.

  • Think about whom you are and what you want to do and STAMP IT!!