Tips On Becoming A College Basketball Coach

By Joe Haefner

Here is another email conversation with Don Kelbick & an aspiring women’s college coach.  These tips are extremely useful to anybody trying to become a college basketball coach.

Question:

I am in the military. When I get out I want to coach women college basketball. I wonder what I need to do to get prepared, what degree does coaching fall under and any advice that I need to know to get started with coaching?

Don’s Response

Your email was forwarded to me by Breakthroughbasketball.com. I write many article for them and I have coached on the college and professional level for over 25 years. I hope I can help you.

In regard to degree requirements, it depends on what level you want to coach. At the Div. I level, just having a degree is enough. As you move down in level, the subject matter becomes more important. As you move down (Div. II, Div.III, NAIA), many schools look for a Master’s degree as well.
If this seems backward to you it is because of this reason, at Div. I level, they hire coaches. They have the resources to support an autonomous department. At lower levels, the athletic department is often integrated with other departments. For that reason, many (but not all) coaches on those levels have to teach as well. Also at those levels, it is very rare, if ever, that that there are full-time assistant positions that do not include teaching. Many departments are integrated with a Phys.
Ed/Recreation/Education Depts. Some are through Student Services. There are no hard and fast rules and each school is different. A lot of it depends on where their funding comes from. I would recommend that at least one of your degrees be in Education. Whether it is Phys. Ed. or somewhere else is up to you but most teaching areas tend to lean that way.

At sub-Div I levels, it is not uncommon for positions to be part time or coach multiple sports. Especially at the Div. III level you see a Head Coach and an Assistant in another. You will also see things like Sports Information or Facilities Manager or Intramural Director as an added responsibility. Again, this is based in finances. Many positions are part time, volunteer or Graduate Assistant (a great option if you want to get a Master’s Degree).

It is most important to know that coaching is very much a contact based, not knowledge based, profession. Even at the highest levels this is true.

I had a friend who is an NBA coach say to me “Nowhere on an NBA job description is the word competence.” It is who you know, not what you know that gets you jobs. Of course there are things you can do where you can gain contacts and knowledge. The best place is to work at summer basketball camps. Camps sponsored by Universities or “exposure groups” such as Eastern Invitational or 5-Star are the best way to go. They get the most knowledgeable and best connected coaches. Go to national clinics, such as Nike Clinics, and use them as educational and networking opportunities. You can volunteer as a coach or administrator at a basketball program near you. The biggest “surprise” for coaches new to college coaching are the administrative and ever-present recruiting responsibilities. The higher level you go, the less the job is about basketball. Academic and eligibility responsibilities are present every day.

Lastly, understand that it will take time and might be extremely frustrating as you try to establish yourself. There are a finite number schools and only a small percentage of jobs open each year. It is kind of like the Mafia, someone in front of you has to die for you to move up. You can use www.NCAA.org as a resource for job openings. You also have to understand that the political climate for males coaching in women’s sports is not really positive right now. There is a need for female role models to be in front of women and I am not sure that I disagree with that. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but it can be an obstacle.

I hope this gives you some insight. Don’t get discouraged, just keep pluggin.

Don

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20 Comments

  1. Don Lafferty — July 24, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

    This is gold, guys.

    I’ll push this post all over the place.

    Don

  2. Candice Smith-Dickson — September 17, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    This is a great article because it answer a lot of my questions regarding the requirements for college level coaching. I am currently teaching math and coaching girls basketball in the Memphis City Schools and looking to move up in my coaching and teaching career. Thanks for the great information

  3. natalie — January 16, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    I am in 7th grade and i want to be a basketball coach when i grow up. what do i have to do to do that?

  4. Kris Smith — January 17, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

    Natalie,
    I’m not a coach yet, but I’ve played the game for 25yrs. The best thing you can to in my opinion is to learn as much as you can about the game as possible. If you play, when your coach explains why a certain play needs to be run at a particular time, pay attention. It can only benefit you to learn as much as you can even at your level. Dont just run a play because your supposed to. Learn why your supposed to run that play. I hope this helps a little. Also….get good grades!!! School is just as important as basketball.

  5. dray smith — March 12, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    this realy helped becuase im 14 with adream of becoming aplayer 4 the nba
    and/orbecome acoach

  6. TJ — April 22, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

    do you have to play basketball in order to be a coach,because that is what i hear even though i know just about everything i need to know, plus i am going to school to study sports management. but i have been a manager for the past seven year for a high school, but i want to be a women basketball coach(college)what do i need to do

  7. Tristan Thomas — August 6, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

    This helped out on the details but what degrees can you get to be a coach? I understand its good to also get a education degree but what else?

  8. Brett — March 23, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    What work experiences are would be helpful before becoming a basketball coach?

  9. Kevin E — May 11, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    Basketball has been one of the most important aspects of my life since age 2 with a family full of very successful high school coaches. I decided to go into a second passion of mine and work with marine mammals, but now at 26 I’m looking into getting back into coaching – inspired by Butler Univ. head coach Brad Stevens’ history. I have my dad & high school coach contacting coaches they know – so, i guess I’m on the right track after reading the “Tips” blog, but is there any additional information that you can provide on getting my foot in the door with a paying gig? I know that applying for a Grad Asst. position is one – but i’d sure like to know of an option not involving a master’s degree just yet.

  10. Morgan S — February 10, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    Im 14 and I want to play Division I basketball or coach at that level. What do I need to do

  11. Jeffrey Black — March 28, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

    hello I’m 25 and I want to be a college basketball coach in Texas and what do i did to do to become a college basketball coach

  12. Chelsey — March 29, 2011 @ 10:42 am

    I want to become a high school coach..how can I do that?

  13. coach c — July 19, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    i am a varsity high school coach,ive been coaching high school for 6yrs and i also coach for boo williams aau for the past 7yrs..and i love it,but hopefully i can coach at the college level,i have time tho im only 29 lol

  14. Riley Green — September 10, 2011 @ 10:23 am

    Hi, I’m currently attending a Graphic Design School down in Dayton, Ohio! I love to draw, love it! But I find myself questioning Graphic Design! All my life I’ve been involved in sports and basketball is by far my favorite sport out there! I’m thinking instead of going with Graphic Design that i want to be some type of coach whether it be cross country, track and field, or basketball. Whatever the case may be I would love to be a coach! So what proper steps should take to becoming a coach?

  15. Shaneka Lee — September 12, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    This was very helpful.Thanks for your post.

  16. Hannah — January 24, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

    This really helped me because I am 12 and my dream is to become a college basketball coach and I live the sport because I have been on an AAU team since I was 9!!

  17. Sandra Stevens — April 11, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    It is a requirement of the NCAA that all coaches have at least a bachelors degree?

  18. William — April 27, 2012 @ 8:23 am

    Hello,

    I started a website on how to get into college basketball coaching. I was wondering if I could site/link to this article?

    Thanks,

    Will

  19. Kim — July 10, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    William – I would like that website! Could you email it to me at dreamingdkb@aol.com? Thanks!

  20. stephen huffman — September 13, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    I have 12 years of basketball coach experience, coach Jr. College and high school. I have been trying for years to coach D1 or D2 college. I have a degree in Comm and In Sports Management. Any advice would be most helpful.

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