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3 Simple Goals that Lead to a Successful Basketball Season

Every November, three of my favorite events take place: my mom’s home cooked turkey feast with all the fixings, a Detroit Lions football game over pecan pie and the one thing I look forward to the most: the first day of basketball practice.   While I am not too sure how to baste a bird or bake a sweet potato pie, getting ready for basketball season is an occasion I can help you with this November.   The first few days of basketball practice are critical to a team’s overall success for so many reasons.  It is during these days in November when coaches across the country set the tone for the months ahead.  The message that you deliver to your squad in November can be the difference between a successful season and one that is for the birds.  We will leave the turkey tips to mom, but prepping for the season is something I can help with.   

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Michael Murphy selected to coach Senior All-Stars in the ACIS vs Ivy League Senior Game. At the beginning of basketball season, the first thing that I speak to my team about is our goals for the season.  I learned to keep my expectations to a short, yet valuable list.  One year, I set dozens of goals ranging from how many post touches we had per game to our overall team’s academic GPA.  Setting too many expectations becomes overwhelming for players and difficult for coaches to track the progress of.  Coaches should set all-inclusive goals, and team goals and game goals should be treated differently as they focus on different values.  Teams may take a different strategy into each game, but overarching goals for the season can remain constant.

With that in mind, I set 3 simple team goals for the season.


  1. Have fun.
    If the team isn’t having fun, there’s no reason to be playing.  There are many things you can do at basketball practice to ensure that your team is having a great time on the court.  I always have the players end shooting contests with a half court shot challenge.  It allows everyone the opportunity to attempt a nearly impossible game-winning shot and regardless of skill level, everyone has a chance to be the hero.  Who knows, we might even need a half court shot during the year and if that shot goes in, all the more confidence the players will have in themselves.  We also save the last 10 minutes of practice for games such as European Handball or “Human Bowling”.  Be creative and add an abundance of humor to your practices.  The kids will be more willing to listen to you if they know they can laugh with you too.  
  1. Work hard and develop good habits.  
    Coaches on our King Hoop team really stress working hard at developing good habits on the court. For example, if we are running a shooting drill, we stress that the rebounder gets the rebound high in the air with two hands as they would in a game, and that he makes a crisp chest pass to the jump shooter.  If players are not developing good habits at practice, they are developing bad habits.  
As a coach, if you are working hard at focusing on the right things your team will improve each day.  I once had a coach tell me, “Do a million little things right and the big things will fall into place.” I could not agree more!  In basketball and in life, if we focus on working hard and developing good habits, we will achieve success.  

 Give Back.
 Each year I set a team goal of helping others within our community.  The players I work with are very fortunate to have a basketball team to be a part of, but not everyone has this opportunity.  Each season we volunteer at community events to help make a difference in the lives of others.  This is a great opportunity for coaches to expose their teams to causes that might have personal importance to them or to the school community.  

We try to vary our efforts each year. Some examples of our community work include: coaching younger students at community basketball events; teaching underserved youth to read, offering homework help at elementary school programs, volunteering at the Special Olympics, or being a basketball buddy to a child with autism.  Teaching our student-athletes about the importance of helping others builds character and brings them together as a unified team.  

If each season we can have fun, work hard and help others in our community, we will have had a fruitful season, no matter how many games we win or lose.  As coaches, we want to develop our student-athletes into leaders of the community. If we achieve these three goals, we will be well on the way to a successful, turkey-filled season.  

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Leman Manhattan Prep ranked Top 10 in New York State ACIS League. ___

  Michael Murphy is the President & Founder of Kids in the Game and head men’s varsity coach at Leman Manhattan Prep in Lower Manhattan. Michael is also a former NCAA Division I Coach at Columbia University in NYC. To connect with Michael, you can reach him at Michael@kidsinthegame.com  

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