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Successful Basketball Coaching

Sasa Cvetkovic identifies a few necessary skills that can make you a useful basketball coach at any level.

Have you been hired for a coaching job? Or have you just been handed your daughter's little league team and wished good luck? Coaching can be a daunting task, but we have compiled a list of proven techniques that can make a world of difference in how well you connect with your players and how much effort you can get out of them. It only takes a few basic skills that can make you a very effective coach at any level.

Winning Attributes

These attributes are passed on from the coach to the team, and if you fully embrace them, will produce winners.


A coach and his players do not have a team if they cannot respect one another. All they have is a collection of guys/girls.


A coach who is mean-spirited or controlling gives off a dark vibe, and this negative energy affects athlete motivation.


Look in the mirror, and you will see your competition staring back at you. A good coach competes against other coaches and teams, while a great coach competes against herself.

  • Set the bar high -- When practice is a bear, real games become easier by comparison
  • Always “play up” -- In practices, scrimmages, and even tournaments, look to play teams that are slightly better than yours.
  • Individual challenge -- Give each player a set of goals that fit within the larger team framework. Ex. “Darcie’s a 48% free throw shooter. Her goal is to hit above 50% consistently.


Passion is what separates the coaches who make the playoffs from the ones who compete for the championship. A coach who puts his whole self into his work with zest brings out the passion in the ones he coaches.


A team is greater than the sum of its parts. Together, a team is capable of far more than anyone, and the teams who buy into that togetherness concept are usually the teams with the best records.


Your ability to make that heart connection is more than just having good communication skills. It means caring enough about your players that you touch the core and soul of them. It is what makes them work ten times harder for you than anyone else.

Winning Coach

A coach's attributes are integral to her ability to lead in and out of the game. The following coaching qualities are found in all successful coaches.


The most successful leaders in any field, have usually thought very deeply about their profession. They have spent ages learning and perfecting their craft by reading and rubbing their shoulders with the great ones.


Get a strong vision of what you want from yourself and your team, in terms of personal goals and team goals. Anything you can see, you can be.

  • Know the way -- the coach should know what he expects of his team and what it takes to get them to that level.
  • Show the way -- A coach should have a concrete plan in place that will take them there.
  • Go the way -- A coach must be active in leading the team to fulfill their goals.


Games are won before any team even steps on the court/field/track. If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.


The best coaches plan with meticulous attention to detail. Very little escapes their notice because it is the cumulative things that make the team excellent or average.


Strong communication skills are one of the most important of all attributes or skills a coach can have.

  • Listening -- We talk with our mouths, but we listen with our ears and our hearts.
  • Emphasizing -- Your focus communicates your priorities. Players know when you care about their needs by what you make important.
  • Speaking -- What you say is sometimes not as powerful as how you say it.


Passion shows that a coach intensely cares about his team, its destiny, and its individuals.


A team cannot operate efficiently without necessary information regarding plays, roles, expectations, etc. Knowledge, properly applied, is power. The best teams are most knowledgeable about the game, the little ins, and outs, and how the sport is played.


The better a coach teaches discipline, the more disciplined her players are. She teaches best by withholding the things she wants until she attains the things she needs.

Delaying gratification

This becomes more vital to a player as he seeks to become a champion.

  • Refusing to react -- Little irritants will get under the skin. Immaturity reacts.
  • Choosing to respond -- Those same irritants are a blessing in disguise because they help a player become mature. Maturity responds.


This is one of the most overlooked and underrated qualities. A coach has to know when not to push, or when to bide his time, knowing that victory, or even just improvement, is around the corner.


Coaches must learn to be locked into their players in a way that inspires and shows that they care. Connectivity is being clued into what players want, need, and are trying to communicate.

Winning Strategies

These strategies can be used immediately for tremendous success and effectiveness in coaching any sport regardless of age.


  • Training -- Players need to feel competent on the court. Training helps them to feel as if they can contribute to a winning cause.
  • Conditioning -- It is not easy to train if you are not in shape. A fit team is a fighting team.
  • Networking -- A wise coach will introduce her players to new ways of thinking and doing things, including partnering with coaches and teams that are not in their field, to learn and teach others.


We believe that it makes no sense to have a good plan, communicate it well, then not give your players enough immediate information about their performance so they can improve or keep doing what they are doing.

  • Immediate -- An effective coach does not wait for bad habits to form, but stops them from ever happening.
  • Direction-focused -- A coach who gets results does not just hand out negative comments about performance but follows it up with what the player should be doing.
  • Results-oriented -- Successful coaches are not always positive, but even their criticism is results-focused, not esteem-crushing. ex. "Shooting like that will get your shot blocked. Here, elevate your arm, like this."
  • Generalize -- We believe that you should allow your players to become familiar with other positions. It helps when you can see your teammate's point of view. Let your quarterback be the tight end and vice versa for a few plays. Let your stretch four or even five bring the ball up the court.


It is not necessary to force-feed your players a ton of complicated strategies and plays, which will probably be very poorly executed. Work on a few simple ones that work well and drill them until they perform flawlessly, then tweak them from time to time.


If you have worked your players well, they should be tired, even exhausted.

  • Give them time to cool down.
  • Allow them ample opportunity to hydrate. This should include time to replace lost electrolytes and minerals, which are crucial for optimal performance.
  • Provide for rest, as players who do not take time off, are far more prone to injury.


To cap it off, we have focused on three essential components of successful coaching, broken down into simple steps. The first of those was winning attributes, which a coach instills into their players. They included respect, attitude, competitiveness, passion, and teamwork. Then we covered the personal qualities essential to a coach's success -- like philosophy, vision, preparation, communication, and discipline.

Next, we gave specific winning strategies that you can use right away to coach your team to success. These strategies have been used for many years by the most effective coaches in the game and include a mastery of the game, the plays, and the offence/defence. This mastery involves giving adequate and immediate feedback, to capitalize upon good habits and eliminate bad ones.

We gave strategies for helping your players to execute well, including having players play at different positions, to help them understand how their teammates' positions fit into the overall scheme of the game. So they will be versatile enough to continue to play well, even if they have to play a different position in a pinch.

Finally, we gave you some helpful tips for helping players recover from grueling workouts. This included hydration, replacing lost minerals, and spending time just mentally recouping so that the player could be at their best.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • CVETKOVIC, S. (2019) Successful Basketball Coaching [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Sasa Cvetkovic is a Freelance Journalist who writes about a variety of sports topics.