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.

Should I Become 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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Any; however, it's helpful if the field is relevant, such as exercise science, physical education, physiology, or sports medicine
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, and acute knowledge of basketball and its rules
Salary (2014) $30,640 annually (median salary for all coaches and scouts)

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 Tips:

  • Play basketball. Firsthand experience playing basketball can give aspiring coaches a more well-rounded knowledge of the sport and allow them to better communicate with their players. Having experience playing on a team may also help secure jobs later down the road.
  • 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. In this case, an aspiring coach can hold a degree in any subject taught at a school.

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 Tip:

  • 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

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

Step 5: Advance in the Field

After gaining certification, aspiring coaches are able to work as head coaches at public junior high and high schools. Most junior high and high school coaching positions are part-time and do not offer the pay or benefits of a full-time position. Students interested in coaching as a full-time career should consider coaching college or professional basketball. To qualify for a coaching position at these higher levels, coaches must have years of experience and a winning track record for their team.

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