What Are Your 7 Core Coaching Values?

I believe that one of the best (maybe "the" best) way to make a positive impact on your basketball team and teach your players life lessons is to develop your own list of core values.

This is a list that you carry with you. Perhaps you post it in the locker room. But what ever you do with it, you should clearly emphasize these core values with your team.

It MUST be documented and well thought out.

I believe this is one of the best things you can do as a coach. Your message will get clearer. You'll have a more profound impact on your players. They will respect you. They will play harder. And you will feel better about the impact you're having on the team.

When John Wooden, the great coach at UCLA finished eighth grade, his father gave him a card entitled, 7 Suggestions to Follow.

They were:
  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Help others.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Good Book.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter for a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings each day.
Wooden kept a copy of the card in his pocket the rest of his life and used these philosophies in coaching.

So simple. Daily reinforcement of the basics can and will take you all the way to the top.

Let's face it. You can't teach your players all the hundreds of life lessons there are to teach. But if you FOCUS on a small set of core values every day in your practices and actions, you can have a tremendous positive effect on your players.

Consistency is vital. Focus is vital. Repetition is vital.

I believe all coaches should have their own list of documented and clearly emphasized core values.

I have my own list. All of the things in my list have a special meaning and make sense to me. I believe in them. They took me a long time to develop. You might want to spend a long time developing yours. You might want to put yours together quickly. Either way, just by having something you'll be helping your players.

Here are mine:
  1. Teamwork / Help Others

    In a sport like basketball, teamwork is vital. It's critical for us to work together and help each other. But this is more than just basketball. This applies to all aspects of your life (help someone else, and you help yourself). You should look to help others in your life, with nothing expected in return. Developing strong relationships, respecting others, and showing sincere care to everyone around you will take you a long way in life. This is something we will embrace as a team. We will constantly focus on the importance of teamwork and helping others...

    "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - John Wooden.

  2. Positive Attitude

    We will strive to have a positive attitude in practice, games, and all aspects of our lives. Your attitude is what defines you. Your attitude affects you and the people around you. Your attitude affects your performance in games and practices. As a player, you should spend most of your time thinking about the positive things you are doing, versus dwelling on the negative ones (mistakes). You should also have a "proactive" attitude. This means that life is what YOU make of it. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results. Having a proactive attitude is about taking responsibility for your life. Proactive people don't blame genetics, other people, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. We will strive to have a positive and proactive attitude in everything we do.

  3. Be Honest With Others and True to Yourself

    For us to succeed, we must have honesty and we must trust each other. This is one of the most important things you can do. Honesty applies to your life in countless ways and it can have different meanings. You must search for those meanings. For starters, an honest person is someone that can be trusted and relied upon. An honest person completes their agreements and promises -- this could be as trivial as finishing a task on your "to do list". Completing these agreements and tasks, removes clutter from your mind. An honest person is also someone that lives with integrity and character. Be reliable and someone that others can count on. Be responsible. Live with integrity and character. Be a good sport. Be true to yourself.

  4. Work Hard and Always Give Your Best Effort

    In basketball and life there are certain things you can NOT control. You can't make every basket, you always can't control who shoots, you can't control if the ref blows the whistle. But there is one thing you can control 100% of the time --- your effort. You have 100% control of your effort. You have a choice to go 50% on a basket cut, or go 100% on a basket cut. Because of that I expect you to ALWAYS give your best effort. There is no excuse you can give because you have control over it. You might miss a few baskets. You might turn the ball over. I can live with those mistakes as a coach. But what I can't live with is anything less than 100% effort. There is no substitute for hard work. The hard work will eventually pay off.

  5. Perseverance

    As a team we will strive to show incredible perseverance and resiliency. We will play through mistakes. There will be bumps in the road, we will play through them. I believe it's critical to always persevere -- never give up and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Anything is possible through hard work and perseverance.

    "Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did." - Newt Gingrich

    "The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges." - MLK

    "The only real failure in life is one not learned from." - Anthony J. D'Angelo

    "In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail."- Anonymous

    "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein

  6. Enjoy the Moment (have fun)

    We are going to work hard, but enjoy this process. Enjoy the improvement. Have fun with it. Looking back on my basketball playing days, those were some of the best times of my life. No I didn't always play, start, or do well. Yes, it was hard work at times. But I loved it and learned from it. Focus on the things you are good at. Enjoy the process and focus your energy on the positive things (give thanks).
They might not mean much to you or make sense for that matter. But they have meaning and make sense to me. They help me remember what is important. I have plenty of quotes to back them up and lots of stories to make them impactful.

Borrow my core values if you'd like. Borrow someone else's.

But take the time and determine what your core coaching values are.

Please share your thoughts and YOUR OWN core values below.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Paul Fell says:
7/31/2014 at 6:35:26 PM

These ones are from the UK. Used by all levels of rugby players, from elite to junior level. I think a strong set of core values for any sport.

These core values are about the whole team and game not just about the coaches as some of these post's are.



Ariel Rabe says:
1/25/2014 at 10:29:00 PM

"Hardwork beats talent when talent fails to work hard." A very good point.

Our 5 Standard Rules:

1. Learn to listen
2. Be obedient
3. Be respectful
4. Be honest
5. Be humble


Denise says:
1/2/2014 at 5:26:39 PM

Thank you so much for this wonderful article and site! I'm not a coach myself, but as a parent, I am certainly happy to come across your words and suggestions. Core values are critical to define and demonstrate if we are to be the role models our kids deserve.


Coach Paul Patrick says:
12/23/2011 at 6:40:47 AM

1.Earning Floor Time
a. Effort at practice
b. Ability and willingness to learn plays
c. Commitment and achievements during practices
d. Achievements during games
e. Coaching staffs ability to find situations where players will succeed
2. Missing Practices
The team and coaching staff also adopted the following rule:
a. If a player misses practices the week before a tournament, excluding injuries or illness, they will sit out of the first game of the tournament. If they choose to not attend that first game, they will sit the next game.. and so on. Coaching staff will be reasonable about special circumstances.
3. Philosphy on Starters
I do not place enphasise on starters. Starters generally come out of the blocks planning to run the 50 meter, and not the mile. I place enphasis on teams within teams. Two player sharing a position, working together. Those two players may share the floor time 50/50, 60/40, 70/30 etc, depending on details found in Item 1 Earning Floor Time. I expect each player to go full out, and 30 seconds before they can't go 100%, they signal the coaching staff that they need a break, and their partner goes in. The two things that I know you can control and are essential if you want to play for me are:
3 a) Measure your success by your effort. Work hard. Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.
3 b) Are you a good team mate. Do you put the team before yourself. Do you have a common goal with your team mates.
4. Demonstrate respect for the game.
a. Love the game.
b. Always hustle.
c. Have fun.
d. Never trash talk.
5. Demonstrate respect for your teammates.
a. Always be encouraging.
b. Only positive comments.
c. Help set team goals.
6. Demonstrate respect for yourselves.
a. Only positive thoughts.
b. Congratulate yourself with positive thoughts and images.
c. Never think you can't do something, instead think that you will get there with hard work
d. If you miss a shot, or make a turnover, tell yourself to hustle twice as hard to get back on defense, and then help your team get another chance to score.
e. Set goals.
7. Demonstrate respect for the officials.
a. Be respectful to the officials - shake hands
b. Officials are trying their best. There are bound to be bad calls. It's part of the game and you have no control over it.
c. Never give the official attitude, it will cost you.
8. Demonstrate respect for you opponents.
a. Shake hands, before and after games.
b. Never trash talk.
c. Rise above opponent's and or their parent's bad behavior. Don't get sucked into their level.
6. Demonstrate mutual respect between players and coaches.
a. Be open and communicate problems.
b. Speak in a respectful manner.


Coach Chris says:
12/21/2011 at 8:04:28 AM

Great Article! We borrowed some ideas from Tom Crean of Marquette, and do something similar to you.

We, the coaches, come up with 4 key values for our season and present them to the players (Modelling). This year was Tenacity, Unity, Respect, and Responsibility. The players homework is to each provide us with their own personal key value to having success as a team. In the first practice each week one player take a minute to present their value and we add it to our list.

This gives the players ownership of their values, and we feel makes them more accountable to living up to them. It also allows team members to address any issues within the team that may be hurting the dynamic.

Keep the great articles and comments coming. Love the site!


Ken Sartini says:
12/20/2011 at 8:23:25 AM

This is a great article Jeff.... it gives coache and players a lot to think about.


Alexandra says:
12/20/2011 at 6:39:16 AM

You gave us such a perfect list and values I also follow as a player and as a coach. I always tell my kids, I'd rather you miss 5 passes then don't pass at all. If you missed that lay-up, come back stronger in defense...and the list can go on, which mostly can be summed up in what you already said.

Kids need guidance and a coach has to have that clear to himself first. I also tell them, a game is like an exam and the practice is the preparation for it. So, everything that was learned and practised has to be tried out during the game. You can't always know the opponent, but you know what you can do and what you learned. Rules are always the same, it's only how prepared you are can make you better than the others.

And I would add a very important one, be an example for the other players. The way you treat them and the kind of teammate you are to them, will make them be the same for you.


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