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Coaching High School Basketball:
Building a Better Program

Coaching high school basketball means plenty of challenges - spotting good talent, piecing together a strong team, evaluating and improving your players, choosing appropriate strategies. Just to name a few. But any coach in this for the long haul must realize that there is more to it than just the team. There is also the program.

The basketball program at your school should be more than the team, although the team is at the heart of the program. But the program must also include people outside the team - parents, school students, younger players, local media. And the program doesn't start and stop with the season - the program is always happening. A team can win without a good basketball program in place, but they'll have a much more difficult time doing it. A solid program will make a stronger team, year after year.

Perhaps you are lucky, and you have walked into a coaching position that already has a strong program in place - now all you need to do is learn how it works and keep it working well.

But if you don't have a program already set up, or feel your current program needs some improvements, here are some suggestions for you.

Coaching High School Basketball: Build a Year Round Program

Phase 1: Off Season

  • Reflect on previous season - What worked well? What didn't? Why?

  • Set goals for next season

  • Begin Spring sports league

Phase 2: Summer

  • Summer Basketball Camps - hold your own, and/or promote good camps you know of to your players

  • Summer Basketball League

  • Individual Player Development Program - Individualize this program for each of your returning players, focusing on strength, conditioning, and developing weak skills.

Phase 3: Pre-Season

  • Extremely important - this is where the skills will be developed and the team will gain their focus

  • Initial focus will be on conditioning and basic skills, with gradual change towards team strategies as the pre-season goes on and the season comes closer.

Phase 4: Season

  • Play as many games as you can - league games, exhibition games, tournaments

  • Make minor adjustments to team strategies and skills as you go along, but a good pre-season would have set a solid base.

Phase 5: Post Season

  • Final tournaments and championship games - your ultimate focus

Coaching High School Basketball: Develop a Sound Feeder System

You need to focus on this season, but you don't want to neglect future seasons either. Having a solid feeder system will help you develop players at younger ages so that you have a supply of players with solid fundamentals, year after year.

That means:

  • having basketball programs at various levels - midget, junior, junior varsity, and varsity

  • building good relationships with the coaches at all these levels - perhaps organize coaching clinics that all can attend; or have midget or junior teams play opening games for varsity teams

  • convincing coaches at the younger levels to focus on basic fundamental skills

If you are coaching high school basketball players with poor fundamentals, you will have a very difficult time competing. Do whatever you can to build a complete program beginning from midget level that stresses solid fundamentals.

Coaching High School Basketball: Promote the Program

  • Within the program - get to know the players at each level; send them Christmas cards and birthday cards; have preseason and Christmas parties

  • On the fringe of the program - send a letter to parents to promote the upcoming season; send a letter to the fans or boosters; have a parents night and pep rallies; advertise the season and promote upcoming games around the school

  • Outside the program - send news releases and game highlights to school and local newspapers and television; have field trips for players to watch university games

There is more to be said about building your program, but these are a few good ways to get it going. In essence, coaching high school basketball is about being part of a community, and doing what you can to build that community. Don't get bogged down by thinking it's all about one season - the program is a long term thing which will hopefully last long after you've retired from the bench!

For more tips on Coaching High School Basketball, return to Basketball Coaching Tips

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"Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate."
- Vince Lombardi

Want something more visual?

Check out UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg's video package of drills


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