By Jeff Haefner,

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 whatever 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:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Help others.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Good Book.
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter for a rainy day.
  • 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:

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.

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.

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.

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 percent of the time—your effort. You have 100 percent control of your effort. You have a choice to go 50 percent on a basket cut, or go 100 percent 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 percent effort. There is no substitute for hard work. The hard work will eventually pay off.


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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“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

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).

These corevalues 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.