What I Learned Coaching Middle School Basketball during Covid

Jeff Hunsaker
5 min readMar 7, 2021
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I coached my 13-year-old’s 7th grade basketball recreation (“rec”) league team over the winter. We just wrapped up a shortened 6-game season running about 10 weeks.

Our grade and school fielded 3 boy's teams: 1 competitive and 2 rec. We were a rag-tag group the 10 of us. Despite having predominately good attitudes and working reasonably hard throughout the season, we finished 0–6.

Even losing all our games, I characterize the season as a wild success. Here’s what I learned:

Set expectations up front — define success

I must give credit where credit is due: Coaching Basketball for Dummies. My sons bought this for me for Christmas a few years back after I assistant-coached one of their teams. It sat on the shelf until this year. The book is pure genius and dedicated an entire chapter to managing expectations: for not only players but more importantly, the parents.

The book recommended setting a clear vision for the season and goals up front — and engaging the players in those objectives. Right up front, I set a meeting with parents articulating my intentions and objectives (define success):

  1. Have fun
  2. Exercise and exhibit great fitness
  3. Experience good fellowship
  4. Improve skills and learn the game

In my up-front meeting, I stressed the social, physical, and emotional benefits for the boys. If we win, that’s an added bonus but I wanted the boys to have fun, improve fitness, enjoy being with one another, and improve their skills and knowledge of the game. I also committed to ensuring every boy would play at least 1.5 quarters in a given game (league rule but I exceeded that). That’s it.

I proclaimed, “If you have an issue with me throughout the season, wait 24 hours and then let’s talk. I guarantee you won’t have an issue though. We’re going to have a great season.” No one had any issues…at least not that they voiced.

We crushed these objectives. The boys all improved in their skills and knowledge of the game, I know they had fun because their parents told me, they grew as a team and friends, and they were able to run the full-court press all season…

Jeff Hunsaker

Curious technologist interested in writing, health, personal improvement, and continuous learning.