How to Make the Varsity Basketball Team at Your High School


Getting on the varsity basketball team can lead to many opportunities for your young career as a player. You get to compete against other high school teams, work on your game, experience high-level team play, learn from a coach and play in front of a crowd. If you’re really good and stand out by your senior year, you can get recruited by top colleges and receive a scholarship.

But everyone has to start from somewhere. Making the team alone takes a good bit of dedication and tenacity, and that work ethic then carries over to the rest of your life.

Here are eight key tips for becoming good enough to make it to your varsity basketball team.

1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

What are you good at? Are you a good ball-handler, an accurate shooter, a strong rebounder, a tenacious defender, or so on? Your strengths are what make you stand out, so make the most of them and find a good way to use them to help your team win.

What are you not good at? While it may be tempting to just do what you do and ignore what you don’t do, you should put time into working on your weaknesses. That’s what practice and off-season are for. The more well-rounded you are as a player, the more useful you are as a teammate.

Of course, you should maximize your strengths. If those strengths help shore up your weaknesses, that’s a good thing as well. Working on your game is all about making your strengths even stronger and turning weaknesses into strengths.

For instance, your jump shot may not be that good. Improving it will surely make you a better scorer and a more valuable player, so you’ll have to look into what you’re doing wrong that may make your shot wonky. A lot of times, it’s using your guide hand wrong. You can correct it by using the Shoot Natural glove during practice to keep it straight. Your shot will improve and become a strength.

But there’s only so much you can do by yourself. When in doubt, ask yourself what will make you a better teammate. At the end of the day, that’s what separates mediocre players from good players. What matters most is what helps the team win.

2. Focus and Be Present

While athleticism, skill, and size are major factors for becoming a good basketball player, what sets apart good players from great players is focus. The one quality that the all-time greats share is the ability to be in the moment throughout each game.

Everyone gets nervous, even those who would go on to become hall-of-famers. But those great players are able to set their anxieties aside once the game starts. They’re able to be in the zone and focus entirely on the game, which lets them perform with the best of their abilities.

When you’re in a game, you may be distracted by many things, like the crowd, your personal problems, and so on. But when you’re there, nothing else matters other than helping your team win. Being present isn’t just about being physically there, but also being mentally focused on the game you’re playing in.

This is especially important during your tryouts. Once you’re in the game, focus entirely on the game itself. Don’t worry too much about messing up and just power through. Make the most of every opportunity, make opportunities for your teammates, and play your best. The coaches will notice whether you’re focused or not.

Hustle on both ends of the floor and play at a good pace. When you make a mistake, make a mental note of that mistake right there and do your best not to repeat it. If you ponder on that mistake, you will slow down and get anxious. That will make your performance suffer and result in even more mistakes.

3. Get to Practice Early and Stick Around

Coaches do their best to instill discipline into their players in various ways. Showing up in practice is the most important thing you can do to show that you have discipline. Every practice is an opportunity to improve your game, so you should relish every chance you have to get better.

Your attendance plays a big part in creating a good impression on your teammates and coaches. You can get there on time every time, which is good. But if you really want to go above and beyond, show up early and get work done before everyone else does. You can also stick around after practice and get more work done while everyone else is gone.

If you’re able to do that while you’re still young, it becomes much easier to do so when you get older. Discipline is a skill, just like everything else in basketball. You can practice being disciplined, and it’s a skill that will take you far both in basketball and in life.

4. Play to Win, Not to Stand Out

This may sound contradictory, being a good player isn’t just about making amazing plays and seemingly impossible shots. No one likes to play with a ball hog, and it can be detrimental to your prospects if you’re seen as someone who plays for oneself and not for the team.

When you play just to look amazing, coaches catch onto those habits as selfish and grandstanding. You may be a good player, but you may be labeled as a bad team-player, which can get you passed up for the team. When it comes down to it, coaches aren’t just looking for potential talents, but winners as well.

Playing to win means playing for the team, and that means getting everyone involved. Let your teammates have a reason to pass the ball to you, and pass the ball to your teammates if you have a reason to. It may be players that score baskets, but it’s teams that win games.

5. Take Nutrition Seriously

You’re still growing, so you want to make sure that you eat food that will make you grow. You’re still young, so you find it easy to eat junk and be fine for practice the next day. But if all you’re eating is junk, then the body doesn’t get anything that lets it grow and be strong.

Take your nutrition seriously early on. After all, you are what you eat. If you want to be the best, you’ll have to eat the best food possible. This may be difficult if you’re not doing well financially, so you’ll have to find ways to get good food from reliable sources.

But it’s also bad if you tend to gorge and put on too much weight. Many pro careers have been derailed due to weight issues, which then make injuries more likely to occur. If you have contact with a nutritionist, take advantage of it and listen to that expert advice.

If you eat right and live right, you will play right.

6. Become a Good Communicator

Communication is the one skill that elevates all other skills. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an artist, an engineer, a doctor, or a basketball player, you can do a lot better if you can communicate with other people.

In basketball, you have to talk to your coach and your teammates. Being able to converse with them properly lets you say what you need to say and listen to what they have to say clearly. This lets you make a good impression and be a good team member.

Good communication as a basketball player means maintaining eye contact with whoever you’re talking to, listening to your coaches and teammates, and making yourself understood.

7. Do Well in School

This isn’t just about keeping your grades up to make it and stay on the team. Cultivating a work ethic in your academics develops the discipline necessary for both college and the professional league. Also, doing well in high school can get you a better chance to enroll in a major university.

If you’re not doing well with your studies now, that gives coaches a reason to doubt your availability for the varsity team and your reliability down the line. Don’t give them any reason to doubt by having good grades and being ahead of the curve.

8. Have Fun and Be Fun

If you don’t love the game, it’s going to affect how you play it. Every game will be a slog and every practice will feel tedious. If you’re into basketball in the first place, then it’s most likely because you love the game.

But it will be hard to keep loving it once it becomes like work. There will be times you won’t find it fun for various reasons, like playing against a vastly superior team, your coach and teammates giving you a hard time, or so on.

It’s up to you to find ways to keep it fun. Understand why you love the game in the first place and what things about it make it fun for you. If you’re having fun, you’ll be more fun to play with, and you’ll be a better player. It’s a feedback loop that’ll make you want to keep playing.


A lot of the things that will get you picked up by the varsity basketball team are also things that will carry you through for the rest of your life. While it’s great to be good at basketball while you’re still young, the qualities that will make you better as you grow are what will truly define you. Now, go out there and show them what you’re made of!