How to Start a Basketball League

Before your players can hit the court, you'll have lots of details to navigate -- including finding a court.
Before your players can hit the court, you'll have lots of details to navigate -- including finding a court.

The invention of basketball is a thing of sports lore: Canadian physician and clergyman James Naismith needed a way to keep the boys in his school active and out of trouble throughout the Massachusetts winter of 1891. He devised a game of tossing a soccer ball into a peach basket.

Your reasons for starting a basketball league might be that simple: something fun and healthy to do, for adults in your community, say, or for youth at area churches. Or you might have higher ambitions, like grooming serious high school players for college or raising money for charities.

Whatever your motives, first make sure there will be enough interest to support the venture. Spread the word by posting an invitation on a social media site. Send a press release to regional papers. Get an interview on a local TV news show. Organize an informal shoot-around to gauge the local community's enthusiasm and talent level. It's also a good idea to get solid advice about the legal and financial commitment involved, since both can be substantial.

Your goals and the response to your inquiries will help you make the many decisions that starting a league entails. For example, what kind of legal entity will the league be? What office and on-court personnel will you need? Where will you play? What rules will you use? Will you charge admission? Sell merchandise?

The scope of your league will also give you an idea of what it will cost to run it. Even if you plan a nonprofit organization that relies on donations and is staffed by volunteers, you'll still have expenses for insurance, paperwork, transportation, equipment, supplies and more.

Managing a league is a lot of responsibility. But if you're up for the game, it's a chance to make a positive contribution to your community -- physically, socially and economically. Look at what James Naismith started with one ball and a couple of peach baskets. On the next page, we'll explore some of the main challenges you'll face and some options for meeting them.