YOUTH BASKETBALL ORGANIZATION BEST PRACTICES: PART 2

In part 1 of my blog on youth basketball organization best practices, I covered general organizational best practices that we at PSB have developed ourselves or borrowed/learned from others and now implement.

As stated in the first post, these are not really on-court basketball guidelines, but rather, the off-court, business and organizational ideas, policies, and procedures. If you’re looking for on-court and more basketball specific guidelines, you should check out the USA Basketball Youth and Jr. NBA guidelines here.

I wanted to share these organizational best practices because we feel that that is a productive way to positively influence youth basketball, which is our vision at Pro Skills.

We believe in sharing as much information as possible, which you can see in all of our free content, and we hope it contributes to the betterment of youth basketball around the world.

I also want to re-emphasize that we are by no means perfect. From myself to our directors to our coaches, players, and parents, none of us are perfect, but these best practices help us to mitigate much of that imperfection.

Moving along,  I want to continue along our path of sharing youth basketball organization best practices, but move away from the general practices to get a bit more specific in regards to parents, coaches, and players.

Part 2: Best Practices for Running a Successful Youth Basketball Program

Parents

At Pro Skills, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to best serve our parents who are, ultimately, the client. Not only ways to give them the best experience possible, but also how to head off any potential conflicts that may arise down the road.

#1 Over-Communicate

As covered in part 1 of this blog topic, we communicate early and often with our parents, coaches, and players, but we absolutely try to communicate the most with our parents. In fact, we try to over-communicate.

Saying things one time is typically not enough. Depending on the importance, we might communicate about it multiple times and through various different methods including email (mass, small group, personal), social media, our coaches, in-person, etc.

In today’s world, with parents having so much on their plate and getting bombarded from every different direction, we simply cannot rely on communicating something important one time to them and expecting everyone to get it.

A good example of this is our Club Team Policies and Procedures Handbook and making sure parents are aware of everything contained in the Handbook. Our process of over-communicating this material is as follows:

  1. Link to Handbook on team homepage
  2. In online tryout registration, tell parents to read it and link to it
  3. First day of tryouts, have parent meeting and verbally tell them to read it and go through the most important items
  4. Email tryout participants the link to the Handbook and again tell them to read
  5. Email out the teams and include link to Handbook and again ask them to make sure they’ve read it
  6. Send out the Handbook for e-signature to verify they’ve read and understand it
  7. Have team parent meeting before season begins and go through every section in the Handbook

While this might be annoying to those parents who follow instructions the first time, we simply can’t afford to have parents overlook this.

#2 Have a Parent Meeting

We didn’t do this when we first started our teams, but now, having a parent meeting may be the most beneficial thing we do every single competitive club team season.

In the meeting, we try to cover everything from mission and vision to policies and procedures to logistics to financial as well as give the parents an opportunity to ask questions.

Of course, there are always going to be some problems that arise during the season, but I’d be willing to bet that this parent meeting saves us from 90% of the potential issues down the road.

#3 Develop Codes of Conduct

Another thing we do that works really well is implement a Code of Conduct specific to our parents.

There are 5 guidelines that parents agree to in this code, including no screaming at officials and no coaching your child from the sideline, but the best guideline is absolutely the “24-hour rule”.

The 24-hour rule states that parents are not allowed to approach the team coach about playing time, game strategy, or anything related to that game within 24 hours after that game ends. This allows for a cool-down period for not only parents but coaches as well.

Imagine that a parent is upset about their child’s playing time. I know – hard to believe haha! Now imagine they angrily approach the coach after a loss. Well, the coach is naturally already going to be a bit upset after a loss, so this is not a good formula for a productive chat.

Now imagine the parent angrily confronts the coach after a win. Well, the coach is going to be upset that the parent is confronting them after the team won the game. So in either case, there is no good time to approach a coach after the game. Thus, the 24 hour rule is implemented.

After the 24 hour period has ended, hopefully, cooler heads have prevailed, and a parent, if still desired, can respectfully request to talk with the coach about their issue.

Coaches

At Pro Skills, we believe our coaches are one of the big differentiators between us and other organizations. We do a few things involving our coaches that we believe are best practices.

#1 No Parent Coaches

In competitive youth basketball, we’ve found more times than not that having a parent coach just does not work well.

Why?

The parent, typically the father, thinks the child is better than they are and shows them some sort of favoritism, whether that be playing time or whatever, but every once in a while it goes the other way too where a dad is way too hard on their child.

In either case, that’s not a good thing, and the ingredients are there for a bad outcome.

Also, one of the main issues in AAU basketball is the ease with which anyone can up and decide to start a team and coach with no qualifications whatsoever.

A father isn’t happy with his child’s playing time?

No problem, just start his own team.

A father has a disagreement with the coach?

No problem, just start his own team.

And this cycle repeats time and time again to where youth basketball coaching gets extremely watered down and fundamentals and learning how to actually play go out the window.

So for us, no parent coaches are allowed. This just reduces the potential for conflict right from the start.

#2 Hire Great People First, Basketball Coaches Second

aau advice for coaches

We’ve had to learn this the hard way.

When we first started, we focused on hiring for basketball experience first and personality second.

Well, we quickly found out that it is much harder to train personality than it is to train basketball, so we flipped the equation. We now hire great people first and basketball experience second.

We found it is much easier to train great people to be good coaches than train good coaches to be great people.

#3 Help Them Focus on What They’re Good At

From the very beginning, our pitch to great people/coaches was to come coach with us and all they have to do is worry about coaching basketball and communicating with the players and parents.

We do everything else from scheduling practices to paying for gyms to registering players to signing up for tournaments to insurance and everything else. In other words, we handle all the logistical and administrative work that no one likes.

All our coaches have to focus on mostly is #1 the thing they’re good at and enjoy – coaching, and to a much lesser extent, #2 communicating with players and parents, which they may not enjoy but isn’t difficult and must be done.

Players

While parents are the main customers and coaches are our most valuable asset, players are the most important piece of this equation.

At the end of the day, if we’re not doing right by the kids and producing results, parents aren’t going to be happy and our coaches are going to be out of a job!

With this in mind, there is only one so-called best practice that guides all of our actions with regards to players, and that is – always do what is in the best interests for the players in the long run.

That is our guiding light so to speak, and we sometimes lose customers (aka. money) in the short term because of it. In the long term, however, this is how to truly be successful.

Some examples of things we do that are in the best interests of our players include:

  • Not allowing our youngest teams/players to play zone so they learn to play man to man
  • Focusing mostly on individual fundamentals rather than team offenses and defenses
  • Developing relationships with our players’ school coaches and working closely with them
  • Not traveling to out of town tournaments with the majority of our team age groups
  • Making players tryout every season
  • Having A and B teams rather than 2 “equal” teams
  • And more…

Some of the above create some headaches for us in the short term, but we so strongly believe in certain ideas as best for our players that we’re willing to trade short-term headaches for long-term success.

Ok, there you have it, folks! These are, what we believe, some of the best practices for youth basketball organizations. We use them every day, week, season, and year, and we attribute much of our success to them.

They’re relatively simple concepts, but pretty difficult to actually implement as they take a lot of time, energy, and attention to details.

We hope that you can take these and apply them to your organization successfully. If you don’t think you have the time, energy, or bandwidth to do them, and want some help, contact us and let us know, and we’ll see if there’s a way for us to work together!

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