How to Start a Youth Basketball Program

If you haven’t read Part I of How to Start a Youth Basketball Program, please give a quick read before moving on to Part II. Part I quickly covers some important questions you should ask yourself before deciding to build a youth basketball program. Most importantly, why do you want to start one? If you can answer this and the other questions then it’s time to get into the more complicated question of how, and more specifically, how to make a living doing it.

How Did PSB Start It’s Youth Basketball Program?

Brendan Winters playing overseas basketball
Brendan playing in the German Bundesliga!

Pro Skills Basketball came about in 2009 when my former Davidson teammate and current PSB co-founder, Logan Kosmalski, and I were playing on the same Dusseldorf Giants team the Bundesliga – the German pro league. For months, we had talked about starting a youth basketball camp during our summer off-season back in the Davidson area. After answering all of the questions covered in Part I, we decided to move forward with the idea.

  • Why did we want to start a camp? Answer: Because we wanted to give back to the community; there seemed to be a need in the area; and we loved working basketball camps growing up.
  • Who were we to think we could/should teach kids? Answer: We had grown up going to basketball camps, had successful D1 careers, were professional basketball players, and had learned from some of the best teachers in the world.
  • What did we want to do? Answer: Just a simple week-long basketball camp for kids.
  • Where did we want to do it? Answer: In the Davidson area where we played college, and after doing some research, there seemed to be a need for another camp beside the Bob McKillop Camp at Davidson College.

From there we moved into the “how” part of the equation, and this was by far the hardest part of starting a youth basketball program. Let me be clear here, when we first started we weren’t really thinking of starting an actually program or big organization. All we wanted to do was start a summer basketball camp for kids in the Davidson area, and see where it went from there. At the time, we thought it would be much easier than it actually was. Boy, were we in for a rude awakening!

Becoming an Official Youth Basketball Business

As I mentioned, we formed Pro Skills Basketball in 2009, in January to be exact, and we planned to run a one week summer camp that off-season. We were already, at that point, crunched for time. We decided on the name Pro Skills Basketball because we were “pros” at the time, and we wanted to bring in other pro and college players to work as counselors at the camp. We figured out we had to form an Limited Liability Company (LLC), and we were able to easily do that through the company LegalZoom.

Pro Skills BasketballOnce we formed the LLC, we opened up a business bank account at Wachovia (because that was the local Davidson bank). This is a major step that a lot of people skip, but it’s important to keep your personal and business funds separate for accounting purposes. If you don’t, you can get in major trouble with the IRS. Logan and I also had to figure out how much money we needed to put in the bank account as an initial investment to pay for all our startup costs (LLC, website, equipment, insurance, etc).

After forming the company, getting a bank account, and making an initial investment, we created a very basic website through Yahoo because that was, for whatever reason, what we used to buy the domain URL. It took us a while to figure out how to do the website, but we made it work. We also had Logan’s sister in law create a logo for us, which we then ended up using for the first couple years. There are a ton of resources now to design a website and logo, which we didn’t know of back then.

Insurance & Registration Process

Finding insurance was one of the more difficult things we had to do simply because we didn’t know anything about it. If I remember correctly, we did a quick Google search about “insurance for youth basketball camps” and then did our research from there. It was semi-complicated, but we figured it out and purchased a plan that just covered the days we were running camps.

From there, we also contacted some people back home and secured the Woodlawn School for a week of camp in the summer. We set the camp dates and times as Monday – Friday, 9am-3pm. Logan and I then had to figure out how to collect registration information as well as payment, and in 2009, we weren’t aware of many great online options, so we opted for direct mail and checks.

People had to print out the registration form, fill it in, and send in with the check for the 25% deposit or the full amount. Needless to say it was not the most user friendly or efficient way to collect registration. There are much better ways to collect money today, but many people and organizations don’t take advantage of them.

Marketing a Youth Basketball Program

Next we had to deal with how to market the camp. Obviously being physically in Europe was a tough position because we weren’t in the Lake Norman or North Charlotte area where we would have been able to promote it in person. “No problem,” we thought – we were former Davidson players and we could use our names to attract kids.

Plus the Bob McKillop Davidson basketball camp sold out every year and had an overflow of kids looking for another basketball camp. We also began to reach out to people we knew in the community as well as those we didn’t know. Those efforts combined with our Davidson name should be able to fill up our camp, right? Wrong!

Pro Skills Basketball ClinicsThat first summer basketball “camp” we only ended up with 12 – 15 kids. In fact, we ended up having to make it more like daily clinics of 2 hours each day because a camp was logistically not possible with that amount of kids.

While we were disappointed, we certainly were not ready to give up. We had no one to blame but ourselves for getting a late start to everything as well as thinking it would be “easy” to fill up a basketball camp.

Logan and I decided that the following year that we would make whatever changes we needed to make and really hustle to get these camps going. This was simply just a roadblock to overcome!

Once again, Logan and I went back overseas to play pro ball for another year, but during that time we made an effort to better market the camps (Logan called what felt like thousands of people about attending camp!). That summer we decided to try to do a week of boys camp and week of girls camp.

Long story short, that summer we successfully ran two weeks of summer basketball camps with about 30 kids in each camp and got back some rave reviews. Because of that we decided to double it the following summer and ran 4 basketball camps – 2 weeks for boys and 2 weeks for girls. Once again we received really positive feedback, and Logan and I both really enjoyed running our own camps as well as coaching the kids that attended.

It was then that we began to wonder if we could possibly do this full-time once we were done playing professional basketball overseas. Up until then, Pro Skills Basketball had simply been a “side job” or a “hobby” we enjoyed doing in our summer off seasons, but now Logan and I had to figure out if this was a viable long-term opportunity. Luckily, we both had some money saved up from playing overseas, so we had a cushion where we felt that we could probably give it a shot full time to see if we could do it. Then it really got real!

In Part III of How to Start a Youth Basketball Program, I will cover step by step how exactly to start and run a youth basketball business, and possibly even do it full time. It’s not easy, but it can be done!

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