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Basketball Sense, the Magazine for Winning Coaches


By Marc Comstock
Head Basketball Coach, Emporia State University

I've always been a tremendous believer in game goals for the following reasons. First, it gives you a barometer to evaluate team performance on a game to game basis. Second, it allows you to find some positives in every game, regardless of the outcome. Third, when you play someone for the second or third time, you can find areas that need to be improved or areas to attack. Fourth, it gives you a tremendous measuring stick for improvement over the course of a year and from season to season.

We adjust the specific goals from year to year in some categories, but for the most part, we try and stay the same each year as a way to compare year to year improvement or digression. Obviously, our number one goal is to win the game. As our season progresses, we show a tendency to win when we reach a specific number of goals. For example, in 1995-96 when our team met 6 or more game goals in 16 games we won 13 times. When we were 5 or lower in 13 games, we lost all 13 times. Each year our teams have what seems to be a "magic" number of goals met per game that results in a win or loss. Reaching that magic number is the primary goal. The following is a list of game goals that I have used for a number of years.

  1. Field Goal Percentage (52% or higher)
    We want to take only good shots. Those will come from our half court offense, transition opportunities and offensive rebounds. The NCAA Division 1 field goal percentage for all teams in 1995-96 was 43.9%!
  2. Free Throw Percentage (75% or higher)
    We want to make 3 out of 4 free throw attempts. It has been said that making free throws wins games. Therefore, we have a lofty expectation level from the line. We use a number of competitive and creative free throw contests in practice.
  3. Get 53% of all Rebounds
    We want to get 53% of all the rebounds taken in a given game. We don't like to set a number figure for a game goal, as we place the same importance on offensive rebounding as defensive rebounding. Also, some games the rebound totals are higher or lower based on field goals attempted and made.
  4. Defensive Efficiency Rating (D.E.R.) Under 1.0
    The barometer of our defensive play is based on the D.E.R. (points allowed per possession). For example, 85 possessions/80 points would equate to a .94 D.E.R. We do not start a new possession until we get the ball, thus, an offensive rebound for our opponent does not begin a new possession.
  5. Less Than 20% Turnover Ratio
    We want to have a 20% or less turnover ratio. This is figured by total possessions into turnovers. Example: 85 possessions/15 turnovers would equate to .17%. Again, we like everything based on percentages as compared to a set figure as all games vary in total number of possessions.
  6. Shoot More Free Throws Than Opponent
    We want to shoot more free throws than our opponent. We feel this gives us the best chance to win at home and is a great equalizer on the road. Example: in 1992-93 we shot more free throws than our opponent 18 times in 27 games. Our record was 15-3 when we shot more than our opponents and 2-7 when we shot less than our opponents.
  7. 1.5 Free Throw Offensive Rebounds
    We want to get one or more offensive rebounds on missed free throws. I'm sure you are already asking yourself how do you get on half. Anytime we get a tip, deflection or hand on a miss, we give one half. We run several different games on the free throw shot and always tip back when possible. Several years ago, on of my teams had 50 offensive rebounds from missed free throws. We don't allow our players to stand and watch the shot!
  8. Offensive Efficiency Rating (O.E.R.) Over 1.05
    The barometer of our offense is our O.E.R. (points scored per possession). For example, 85 possessions/92 points would equate to a 1.08. We do not start a new offensive possession on offensive rebounds.
  9. Field Goal Defense (46% or lower)
    We want to force our opponents to shoot 46% or lower each game from the field. We achieve this by challenging all shots, limiting second shots and eliminating transition opportunities.
  10. Force 22% Turnover Ratio
    We want to force a 22% or higher turnover ratio vs. our opponent. This is figured by total number of possessions into turnovers. Example: 85 possessions/21 turnovers would equate to a 25%. Again, this is based on percentages rather than a specific number.
  11. Opponents Under 69 Points
    We want to hold our opponents under 69 points per contest. We vary this number from year to year based on our style of play and projected number of possessions per game. In 1994-95 our game goal was to keep our opponent to 69 points or less. We accomplished that 17 times in 27 games. We were 14-3 when 69 or lower, 3-7 when over 69 points.
  12. No Opponent With More Than 19 Points
    We do not want to allow any opposing player to score more than 19 points during a game. We do this by identifying particular players that are the leading scorers or shooters. Our pre-game preparations, game specific adjustments and proper matchups help prevent individuals from having a 20 point game against us.
  13. 25 Or More Deflections
    We want to get 25 or more deflections each game. This must be emphasized daily in practice and rewarded when it happens. We believe deflections lead to turnovers and occasionally frees the ball up for transition opportunities. It is also a very strong indicator of our intensity level each game. I'm aware of several NCAA Division 1 teams that want 35 team deflections and an individual goal of 7 deflections per contest.
  14. Plus/Minus Evaluation
    This year we are adding plus/minus evaluation after each game. Simply we add all the positive contributions that show up on the post-game stat sheet (FG made, FT made, Rebs, A, Blk, steals) and subtract negative statistics (F.G. missed, F.T. missed, foul, T.O's). This gives each player a score. We set a team goal of +30 or more. Individually you would like your point guards at +2 or higher, your wings at +5 or higher and your posts at +7 or higher. At the end of the year, add up each player's total score, divide by # of games played and then divide by minutes player per game to get an accurate statistic.

In summary, it is extremely important to adjust your specific game goals to meet your team's realistic potential and what you emphasize. Many of the goals need to be adjusted according to the number of possessions and tempo you play. We don't like to vary our goals drastically from year to year because it is a great way for us to evaluate yearly improvement. You may want to add different goals and eliminate some that we use. This game goal sheet has really been good for us in finding positives when we win or lose and in helping identify areas that need improvement. We always spend several minutes discussing the goals met or missed. I'm beginning my eighth year with the game goal program. Each year I make slight adjustments, but I am convinced it is a great motivator, indicator and evaluator of our team's success and improvement.

No part of this article may be reproduced without written consent of Basketball Sense, the Magazine for Winning Coaches. If you would like to receive a free sample magazine please contact J. Nicholas Abbott, editor. PowerBasketball would like to thank Basketball Sense, the magazine for Winning Coaches for permission to re-print this article.

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