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How to Become a Basketball Coach: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a basketball coach. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career in coaching.

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Do I Want to Be a Basketball Coach?

Basketball coaches teach their players how to play the game and work together as a team. They organize team practices, supervise physical conditioning activities, analyze individual players and the team as a whole and create game strategies. Coaches are also responsible for guiding and motivating their team towards success.

Basketball coaches can work with teams at various levels, including high school, college and professional. This occupation can be physically demanding, and coaches are often called upon to help their players learn good sportsmanship, whether in winning or losing. This work is typically part-time at the high school level, but can be full-time at college or professional levels. Higher levels may also offer prestige for coaches of popular teams.

Job Requirements

To work at the secondary and post-secondary level, aspiring basketball coaches must usually have a bachelor's degree. They may work for several years as an assistant coach before being promoted to head coach. Certification might be required. To be hired at the professional level, candidates need many years of experience as a winning coach or as a basketball player. The table below lays out the main requirements for becoming a basketball coach.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree**
Degree Field Exercise science, physical education, coaching*
Experience Assistant coaching, playing on a basketball team*
Certification Required to work in public schools
Key Skills Communication, leadership, ability to make quick decisions, attention to detail**
Additional Skills At the college level, ability to recruit players*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective basketball coaches who want to work at the high school or college level need a bachelor's degree. Students have the option to pursue programs in exercise and physical education; however, some schools offer degree programs that specialize in coach training. These programs teach students how to work with athletes and develop game plans, as well as plan and implement physical conditioning and skills development programs. Students also receive training in injury prevention.

Success Tip:

  • Consider working as a teacher in addition to coaching. Teachers who work in junior highs and high schools may have the best opportunities to coach at that level. Many schools will hire coaches who are already working as state-certified teachers and understand how to educate and communicate with young people.

Step 2: Get Coaching Experience

To be hired in an assistant position, individuals may need to have coaching experience. While in school, students can begin working with basketball teams at many different levels. Working as team manager for their college team could provide the opportunity to learn how a college coach prepares for practices and games. Volunteering as an assistant for a local high school basketball team is another option.

Success Tips:

  • Learn how to watch game tapes. One of the primary duties of both assistant and head basketball coaches is watching game tapes and breaking down the actions and strategies of teams and players. Watching all levels of basketball games and learning how to recognize various offenses and defenses can be highly beneficial.

Step 3: Work as an Assistant

Individuals often begin their careers as assistant basketball coaches, with increasingly responsible levels of assisting. It's also important to work individually with players both before and after practice to help them improve their basketball skills.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Some states may require junior high and high school coaches to earn certification. In order to obtain certification, prospective coaches need to complete courses in coaching and pass an examination. Certification may also be required for coaches who are non-faculty members at a school.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics