Three Thoughts on Core Values from Coach DeMarco

If you have not seen the video of Heather Dorniden falling and then winning the 600-meter race at the Big Ten Championship watch it. I just saw this for the first time and cannot wait to show it next year to our team at the right moment. The video illustrates two of our team’s core values of persistence and competitive greatness. We will often do a time-based competitive drill in practice and players will ask midway through if we can reset. That is not the way a competition ever works. Showing this video will hopefully help them develop a tougher mindset around persistence when the game does not initially go well. I asked Coach DeMarco for some of his thoughts on core values.


When he coached his teams had five core values. One of them was appreciation. What I really like about this value is not the value itself but how the team lived out this value. Every Friday they had what they called Appreciation Friday. On that day, the coaches would ask the players to do something beyond the norm for teachers, parents, etc. It went beyond basketball and got players to think outside of themselves. Where I would copy Coach DeMarco’s idea is keeping a consistent routine around one day. Often times coaches have great intentions of getting the players to do something nice for the community, but don’t have an “alarm clock” recurring in their mind to hold them accountable to that idea.


Another value that his teams emphasized was competitiveness. When he initially started coaching this value proved problematic to implement. Players struggled to adjust to practices being heated. They wanted two hours of getting along and embracing each other, but the coaches implored them to get used to being heated. The idea of being uncomfortable with those you need to be closest with is always a struggle.

Modifying Your Values to Fit You

At one point, the team had a value of enthusiasm, but no longer saw a need for it. Based on their other values, players were going to need to exhibit enthusiasm by default. The team decided to vote for a new value and it came down to two. Ultimately, they decided on “relentless.” What is worth noting here is that by voting as a team instead of making the decision unilaterally as a coach, the team picked. In doing so, players naturally became more cognizant of the theme of resiliency and were probably more likely to be resilient because they collectively valued it. There are some teams with core values locked in place, but for teams that are trying to find core values getting input from the players will increase buy in.

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