W is for John Wooden: Explaining His Philosophy Of Coaching And Life

John Wooden, the legendary American College basketball coach, encouraged his players to develop their character. He never mentioned winning but his teams won more titles than any other in College basketball history. His view of success was:

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

During his early career he began developing what later became known as his famous Pyramid of Success. This consisted of guiding principles that athletes could follow both on and off the court.

The base of the pyramid consists of phrases such as: Industriousness; Friendship: Loyalty; Cooperation; Enthusiasm. Behind each of these words is an explanation.

The word Industriousness, for example, is explained in detail. This includes the phrases:

“In plain language, I mean you have to work – and work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. None. Worthwhile things come only from real work.”

There are several levels to the Pyramid of Success. It culminates in the principle of Competitive Greatness. This is explained as:

“Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.”

John Wooden built teams that aimed to live these values, rather than just laminate them. He reinforced the Pyramid of Success by using certain maxims to remind people of their responsibilities. These included:

Be true to yourself.

Help others. Make friendship a fine art.

Make each day your masterpiece.

There is a no substitute for hard work and careful planning.

Be more interested in character than reputation.

The litmus test was that the approach worked. His teams left a legacy of winning titles, even though he did not talk about winning. Many players, commentators and others were touched by his work. Here are some quotes about Coach Wooden.

From Bill Walton, a former player.

“(He) has a heart, brain and soul that have enabled him to inspire others to reach levels of success and peace of mind that they might never have dreamed possible on their own.”

From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a former player.

“My relationship with him has been one of the most significant of my life … The consummate teacher, he taught us that the best you are capable of is victory enough, and that you can’t walk until you crawl, that gentle but profound truth about growing up.”

From Alan Castel, UCLA assistant professor of psychology, who interviewed Wooden about aging and memory during the summer 2008

“Wooden was a role model, not just as a coach and a wise man, but also for his modesty and character, and on how to age successfully.

“He was a legend in ways that go far beyond basketball. His personality, positivity, wisdom and attitude toward aging played important roles in his cognitive vitality.

“He also had a great sense of humor about life, and even death … One of Coach’s famous quotes was, ‘When I am through learning, then I am through.'”

John Wooden enabled people to keep developing their character strengths. They then worked hard to fulfil their potential as human beings.

You can learn about John’s remarkable life and philosophy at the official web site.


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