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Building Blocks of a Successful Basketball ATHLETIC Program

Brett Kuehn

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes the right pieces all working together to build strong basketball athletic programming. Depending on your situation the pressure to succeed varies. For instance, you could take over a winning program where you must win immediately, or you may be run out of town. Or perhaps you’ve taken over a program that doesn’t have much success, but you have the commitment to run the program your way and build it from the ground up. Regardless, of your situation it’s going to take some great leadership, patience, resilience and some help to build a successful basketball program. I reached out to some of the best basketball coaches in the nation to find out what keys are important for successful basketball athletic programming and I’m happy to share them with you.


Core Values
For most organizations you need some guiding principles and the core values of a basketball team are the fundamentals for successful athletic programming. Coach Eddie Martin from Buford High School in Buford, GA team core values are “accountability, unity, humility, thankfulness, servant hood, and passion”. Once your core values are established you must live and operate by them. Words are just words if you don’t believe in them. If you can establish buy-in to your core values and hold your team and coaches accountable to them you’re setting the future of your team up for success. Coach Guy Shavers at Southwest Guilford High School in High Point, NC uses “BEAST” as his philosophy, which stands for Buckets, Effort, Acquire Knowledge, Share, Toughness. Find the identity you want your team to have, brainstorm, seek some input and establish your core values.


Quality Hires
This is a tough one and may be the most difficult. You’re going to want to surround yourself with knowledgeable coaches that you can trust, but that will also give you a different perspective. You want a coach that’s going to respectively challenge you because a “yes” man isn’t going to help. Coach Rob Slopek of Stevenson University says, “the people you surround yourself with are the ones who make you what you are and help define you as a coach”. And adds “the best assistant coaches are the ones who want to become better coaches, whether they strive to be a head coach or not”. 


Attitude, Energy, and Effort
Attitude is everything! “Never whine, never complain, never try to justify yourself” Robert Greene – Coach Mike Jones at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, VA focuses on the fundamentals and a huge part of those fundamentals “are to play with energy and effort every day”. Poor attitudes, inconsistent effort, lackadaisical and careless practice and play are a recipe for disaster. You need to make sure your coaches and players have the right attitude, put forth the effort and play with energy to have any chance at having a successful basketball program.


Empowerment and Buy-In
When you empower someone, you give them the ability to do something. Coach BJ Jackson at Legacy Early College High School in Greenville, SC made a change this year and he wants everyone to “have ownership in our program from the coaches to the players. We allow our seniors to pick the uniform style/team shoes and pre game attire. Our coaches have input on offensive and defensive philosophies as well as substitution rotation. I want our assistant coaches to feel comfortable enough to run the program if I had to step away”. Creating buy-in takes time, and trust. One way to gain trust is to empower people and by having your players and coaches involved in some of the decision making they take ownership. Taking ownership is a key factor in the growth and development of an individual which can eventually lead to a buy-in culture. 


Developing Talent – Feeder Programs
One way to help develop top-notch players that fit your culture is to develop your feeder system. Start inviting younger groups to into some of your practices which will help you build relationships with their coaches and the athletes will be exposed to higher skill levels. Host camps for your feeder community which will give you the chance to work extensively with the younger athletes.  And always keep your communication open with other coaches in the feeder system. Get their opinion, get to know them personally, seek their vision. Expanding your network and giving younger the athletes the chance to play at a higher level helps them grow and build as a player. 


None of this is easy and it doesn’t always equal to success, but you do have to have a plan and vision for your program. These are just some of the building blocks of a successful basketball program and there are a lot more! What other traits does a successful basketball program have? I would love to hear from you in the comments section. 


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