Starting a 3 on 3 League - 3 Keys to Success


All across the country, 3 on 3 basketball leagues are popping up with growing enthusiasm.  The 3 on 3 format is HOT right now!  With the spotlight on 3 on 3 basketball making its appearance in the 2020 Olympics and the recent debut of Big3’s professional 3 on 3 basketball league, it’s inevitable that basketball’s younger generation is going to follow suit zealously. If you are taking advantage of the new basketball niche and running your own 3 on 3 league, you certainly want it to stand out in your region!

3 on 3 Hoops Hub knows the ropes and wants to support others who want to get into the 3 on 3 basketball industry like we have (see 3 on 3 Hoops Hub’s mission is to increase 3 on 3 basketball opportunities for kids around the world.

[3 on 3 Hoops Hub, a company dedicated to growing the 3 on 3 basketball opportunities for kids, emerged from our thriving company, Midwest 3 on 3, that originated in Minnesota in 1997. Midwest 3 on 3 has hosted hundreds of 3 on 3 basketball leagues and is the industry’s clear leader.]

We have been running 3 on 3 basketball leagues for over 20 years, well before 3 on 3 basketball was “the latest thing” and we often get asked the question, “What sets Midwest 3 on 3 apart? Why haven’t the local competitors been able to slow you guys down, or grow like you have?”

[When I say “we”, I’m referring to my husband, Mike, and myself. Learn more about our story and how our accidental business, Midwest 3 on 3, grew to a six-figure business and allowed us to leave our jobs as teachers and coaches.]

Continued growth year after year depends significantly on RETURN customers. The bottom line is: Get current players to sign up for another league! So, just how do we keep them coming back?

3 Key Factors In Running A Successful 3 on 3 Basketball League 


Whether using volunteers or paid staff, one of the most important practices Midwest 3 on 3 has in place is consistency from league to league and year to year. If you want to provide an exceptional league experience, your staff is an integral piece of the equation.

Personally interacting with each league participant and parent isn't possible when you run a 3 on 3 basketball league. That's where your staff comes in to play. Your staff MUST represent your standards and philosophy and be an extension of you during your league.

How do you get your staff to buy in to your program and do a fantastic job?

  • Hold training events. Prior to your league, bring teams in to play 3 on 3 (for free!) and refs can practice with supervision. Even if they have some experience, it is a good idea to have them review hand signals and practice blowing their whistles prior to throwing them into an actual 3 on 3 game. Partner them on a court with one of your best officials who can offer feedback as they practice reffing a game.

  • Create a video course. Obviously use this video to teach calls and hand signals. But it is also an excellent opportunity to explain how to handle tough situations that may arise. Your league will run smoothly if your staff knows what to do when an injury occurs or a team doesn’t show up, for example. The best thing about this is that everyone receives the same message and they can review it as needed.

  • Continue staff development. One training session or a video course won’t be enough for your staff to reach the highest standards.  You can continue their development by sending weekly points of emphasis or other reminders via texts, emails or short video messages.

  • Implement incentives for improvement. We’ve learned that it is tough to motivate staff to improve if you are using volunteers. Typically, we avoid the volunteer model and use paid staff. We continually evaluate and communicate with our staff about their strengths and offer suggestions to improve. They know exactly the next things to improve upon if they want a pay raise. There are many things you can do to prevent refs from getting complacent or not showing up for a shift if you have a well laid out incentive program.

  • Staff management tools. If you really take advantage of the 3 on 3 opportunity and run multiple leagues, you could be managing over 100 staff members like we do. You’ll want to have a method to collect staff availability and shift preferences, communicate work shifts and complete payroll. We use a variety of tools such as google docs, When I Work and Quickbooks.


Customers are much more than just numbers. If you want them to sign up for your next league, with so many basketball options to choose from you’ll need to provide an exceptional product. Every individual’s experience and perception should be valued – not just the positive ones. Taking time to assess your customers’ desires, concerns, and general feedback is time well spent. Here are several “best practices” that Midwest 3 on 3 adheres to:

  • People are busy: Accommodating schedule requests is one of the best things you can do to make people happy. It certainly is not easy to accept requests and it makes scheduling much more time consuming, but the extra time and effort will pay off and set you apart. You’ll have more participants and they’ll return year after year.

  • Be observant as a site director: If a child is crying, he/she is not having a good time. Find out why someone is unhappy by talking to the parents and the players. Ask questions so you can determine how to make things more positive. It’s great to hear what families love about our leagues, but do not shy away from having those constructive-criticism-type of conversations. If you really listen, you can polish up your service and improve the experience for all participants.

  • Delegate to your staff: You might not be able to tell if everyone is leaving happy, but your staff can help. Have them take notes for your review at the end of the session and make sure to address them in upcoming weeks.
                “Team X complained about the reffing.”  
                            “Team Y had an injury.”
                                        “Team Z only got one game because the opponent didn’t show up.”

    Develop a reporting system that accounts for nightly staff comments, and make sure to follow through when action is needed.

  • Level the playing field: Make certain that teams have appropriate competition. Watch the scores. If teams are winning by a lot, they may need to play older opponents. On the flip side, teams that are losing by wide margins may need to play younger competition.

  • Be proactive: Try to predict and plan for situations that may arise. Knowing how you are going to handle the ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ occurrences will make you look more professional and keep your stress levels in check. How will you handle a team not showing up, poor reffing or irate parents?

  • Survey your participants: Find a survey tool like Survey Monkey or Google Forms. Create a short survey for your participants to complete after the league. You will gain valuable insight about what parents and players love about your product. Even more importantly, you will find out some things you can improve upon.


Marketing your 3 on 3 basketball league is paramount to its success. The way we promote our events has certainly transformed over the past 20+ years as marketing best-practices is ever-evolving. Consider the following points of advice. 

  • People won’t sign up for your league if they don’t know about it: Find an email managing tool like Active Campaign or Mail Chimp. There are many options out there. Make sure you let participants know when registration is open or ending for your events.

  • Partner with a high school basketball program or a traveling/house association: These basketball organizations have many email contacts as well as their own websites and social media profiles. You may want to work out an financial agreement with one or more of them to gain their help. We do this for almost all of our leagues and it is quite successful. 

  • Leverage social media to your advantage: Don’t stop at email. Use various social media mediums like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to show off what is happening at your events and to promote your upcoming events. Encourage others in the basketball world to help you promote the league.

  • Create fliers or posters promoting your events: Post your marketing materials at any place where basketball people will see them. If you aren’t creative, hire freelancers from Fiverr or Upwork. Yard signs are yet another way to inform others about your program.

  • Word of mouth is powerful: We can’t stress enough that your very first league will set the stage for your future success or failure. If you aren’t organized and prepared to offer a top-notch experience for your very first league, most people will not give your league a second chance. Word spreads quickly in the basketball community and your potential future participants will invest their money and time in one of the many other opportunities available to them if you run a sub-par league. Do it right the first time and your business will boom for years to come.

Final Thoughts On Owning A Profitable 3 on 3 Basket League

Starting and maintaining a top-notch 3 on 3 basketball league is cutting edge in the basketball world right now. To stand out in a saturated basketball market you are going to want some advantages. If running a profitable 3 on 3 league (or several leagues!) is your goal, give yourself the very best chance to succeed beyond your wildest expectations. Put our 20+ years of 3 on 3 experience to work for your 3 on 3 basketball league today. 3 on 3 Hoops Hub is here to help you succeed!