PART I: HOW TO START A YOUTH BASKETBALL PROGRAM

how to start a youth basketball program

Mindset when trying to Build a Successful Youth Basketball Program

It seems that in recent years, youth basketball organizations have been popping up everywhere. As a matter of fact, youth basketball programs and youth sports in general has become an industry today where people are able to now make a living, which is great if you’re like us and are passionate about teaching young players.

Some people seem to take issue with youth sports as a business, but from our perspective, it’s awesome that many coaches are now able to make youth coaching their full time job while hopefully making a positive impact on young people in the process.

However, that doesn’t mean that starting a youth basketball program is all peaches and cream or cut out for everyone. It’s actually very difficult to build a youth basketball business up to the point where you can do it full time, and frankly some people aren’t cut out for the job and/or don’t have the experience or background to do it.

Just as any Joe Schmo off the street shouldn’t and can’t be a doctor, teacher, auto mechanic, or whatever, the same thing applies to a youth basketball.

After building Pro Skills Basketball over the course of the last 7 years, I’ve come up with 5 very simple questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about starting a youth basketball program.

We’re by no means perfect, but we do believe we are good at what we do, and we have “seen it all” over the last few years, so hopefully these questions can help you before jumping right in without carefully thinking about it.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Youth Basketball Program

#1 Why?

To me this is the most important question: Why do you want to build a youth basketball business? It quickly becomes apparent when people are in it for the wrong reasons such as to try and get rich, to exploit some young players talent, to re-live the “glory days”, or to coach your own child, etc.

But if you’re doing it because:

  • You love to teach basketball to young players
  • You have a knack/talent for coaching
  • You want to make a positive impact in young kid’s lives, etc.

Those reasons can help you build a successful youth basketball business. So ask yourself, and be honest, why do you want to start a basketball business?

#2 Who?

jeff van gundyThe next most important question is who are you? Meaning what is your basketball playing experience and what is your coaching background?

Again, I’m a firm believer that any Joe Schmo off the street should not be a youth basketball coach. I believe you must have some sort of background in playing, coaching, or both.

Now don’t get me wrong here – just because you played basketball at a high level doesn’t mean you will be a good coach, and just because you didn’t play at a high level doesn’t mean you will not be a good coach. Just look at Jeff Van Gundy. He didn’t play professionally, but is/was a great coach.

However, I do believe coaches should have a certain amount of experience as a player and/or coach. If you want to read about my playing and coaching background or our other directors and coaches backgrounds, you can do so here.

#3 What?

There are a few different “what” questions. First of all, what kind of players do you want to coach? There seems to have become two distinct types of players over the past decade: the recreational player and the committed/AAU-type of player. Do you have a preference as to which type of player you want to coach? Or do you want to coach both?

Secondly, what kinds of programs do you want to offer? Do you want to focus solely on the training and skill work aspect of youth basketball coaching like in individual or small group instruction, clinics, academies, and camps? Do you want to focus only on AAU teams? Or do you want to do a mix of the above?

build a youth basketball program

At Pro Skills we want and try to coach both types of players from beginners to advanced, recreational to competitive. We offer skill development programs, including workouts, clinics, and camps, for all ages, genders, and skill levels, and we also offer AAU teams for those players that are more serious and committed and want more of a year round experience.

However, there are plenty of people and organizations that focus solely on one or two aspects of youth basketball.

#4 Where?

From a purely logistical standpoint, you’ll need to ask yourself where you will run your youth basketball program? Will it be in a big city or small town? Are there other youth basketball organizations already established? These questions will determine the viability of your organization getting off the ground.

But after you’ve answered these questions, being even more detailed, would include where exactly will your programs and practices take place? Do you want to try to have your own facility like Carolina Courts in Charlotte or Gold Crown in Denver?

Or do you want to do what we do and just rent out the space you need from different schools, churches, rec. centers, etc.? Figuring our all the “where’s” will have a major impact on your youth basketball business.

#5 How?

If you can answer the above 4 questions then it might be time to think about the BIG question of HOW exactly to start a youth basketball program? There are so many things to consider and so many questions that need to be answered like:

  • Business type?
  • Website?
  • Registration?
  • Payments?
  • Pricing?
  • Customer service?
  • Gym rental?
  • Hiring coaches?
  • Services?
  • Taxes?
  • Insurance?
  • Marketing?
  • Gear?
  • Equipment?
  • ETC.

As you can see that’s a TON, and not even the half of it. It can truly be overwhelming and just be too much for some coaches to want to deal with, which is why we started our Director Development Program to help coaches get off the ground in other cities. Basically we handle the “how” part for our Directors, and they simply do what they do best – COACH!

However, if you still want to hear about the “how”, in Part II of How to Build a Youth Basketball Program, I will take dive at this question and try to give you as much advice as possible when starting your own youth basketball business.

Stay tuned…


Brendan Winters is a former Davidson Wildcat and European professional basketball player as well as the co-founder of Pro Skills Basketball and co-director of Pro Skills Basketball Charlotte.

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