There are many levels of basketball coaches in our nation from those who coach in the professional leagues to those who work with Kindergarten kids. Currently those coaches who work with school aged players seem to fall into two categories: those who coach in schools, (education based programs) and those who coach for AAU, community, church, club, travel, and for-profit organizations (non-education based programs.)
In today’ s society there seems to be confusion at times as to what roles coaches in these categories have in regard to the young people they work with. Unfortunately, at times there can be a tug-of-war over a young person’s time and commitment.
This article is not meant to disparage either group, but to simply delineate the difference between the two types of coaches. We will operate on the assumption and the hope that all coaches, regardless of the type of league or level of team they coach, care about their players and want to help them.
Scholastic coaches are educational-based coaches that in most states are bound by strict eligibility rules and guidelines that limit much of what they are allowed to do with and for their players. Most state associations prohibit blatant recruiting of athletes; require student-athletes to meet certain academic, attendance and residence requirements; have both student-athlete and coach’s codes of conduct that expressly prohibit certain actions; and in many states the actual amount of time scholastic coaches can spend working with players out of season is limited.
Scholastic coaches have to monitor their players’ grades, their attendance, monitor their behavior at school and ensure those players are meeting the school, the district and state eligibility requirements. These scholastic coaches have to work to incorporate their basketball programs into the culture of the school and community. In many cases they have to cooperate with other sports’ coaches at the school to allow players to participate in multiple sports and after school activities.
Scholastic coaches understand that the athletic experience is an extension of the educational day and that the goal is to help players become their best -- the best student, best teammate, best husband/father and best member of society they can become. This means enforcing team rules and disciplining players when they fail to comply with those rules. In other words, holding the players accountable- accountable to their teammates, to their school and academic requirements, and to their community.
As a result of the differences in the goals of non-scholastic basketball programs, many players are being held less accountable each year. A coach whose sponsorship
contract is dependent upon constant success and attracting the top players to that program can’t afford to refuse to suit up a top player at a major tournament. A skill trainer whose income is dependent upon the number of players he is training can’t afford to be too brutally honest about players’ ability levels for fear of running off clients. There is no great motivation for either of these non-scholastic coaches to be greatly concerned about a player’s grades, school attendance or conduct in school. It’s no fault of theirs, it is simply a consequence of the market they are in.
Education-based coaches need to understand and embrace that your role is different than that of non-education based coaches. Scholastic coaches must still be in the business of teaching what it means to be a good teammate. Teaching life lessons about dealing with adversity, putting others above self for a common goal, and sacrificing for some entity bigger than self. This requires implementing discipline and tough love in some cases. The result is the development of character qualities that go far beyond basketball-related skills. As coaches, we are competitors, we want to be the best and take on all challengers. However, scholastic coaches need to accept that your role is more important than just winning tournaments and producing Division 1 caliber players. Embrace the differences between the roles, invest deeply in the lives of your players and make the most of your opportunities to produce citizens that will improve our society.
by Greg Grantham, NHSBCA Board Member
& Executive Director, North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association
Dave Archer, Dr. Director of Operations, NHSBCA & Executive Director Basketball Coaches Association of NY