"Tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better." John Wooden
John Wooden, the most successful coach in college basketball history, didn't measure his team by a game's final score."I never mentioned winning or victory to my players," he wrote in "Wooden: A Lifetime of Reflections on and off the Court," co-authored by Steve Jamison.
"I never referred to "beating' an opponent. Instead I constantly urged them to strive for the self-satisfaction that always comes from knowing you did the best you could to become the best of which you are capable. That's what I wanted: the total effort."
By getting the most out of himself and his players, Wooden achieved a record that dwarfs any other. He coached UCLA to seven straight national titles and 10 overall, more than twice as many titles as the next best. His teams won a record 88 straight games in one stretch and had four undefeated seasons. Wooden, a three-time All-American as a player, was the first person inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. Adding to his long list of honors, Wooden, 99, in 2003 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for coaching and inspiring others with his study of what it takes to achieve greatness, called the Pyramid of Success. Ready Wooden knew no shortcuts to success existed. He didn't use pep talks to get his team to play their best. He knew that nothing could take the place of complete preparation. Practices "were nonstop action and absolutely electric, super-charged, on edge, crisp and incredibly demanding, with Coach Wooden pacing up and down the sidelines like a caged tiger," Bill Walton, a star center for UCLA in the early '70 s, recalled in Wooden's book. "Games actually seemed like they happened in a slower gear because of the pace at which we practiced," Walton said. "We'd run a play perfectly in scrimmage and Coach would say, "OK, fine. Now reset. Do it again, faster.' We'd do it again. Faster. And again. Faster." The coach spent two hours each morning with his assistants planning practice, sometimes longer than the practice itself. His assistants used 3-by-5 cue cards each day "so they knew -- to the exact minute -- when we would need two basketballs at one end of the court for a drill, or three players against two players at a certain place and time, or the dozens and dozens of variations I devised," Wooden wrote. He didn't just plan the practice for the team as a whole. He also devised drills based on each player's needs.
In 1960, Wooden tried to figure out why UCLA had gone 12 seasons without a championship. His first step? Examining everything he was doing as coach. He noticed that he worked players so hard in practices, they were worn out by tournament time. So he introduced a rotation system into his practices, giving his starters rest and giving the top reserves more time with the starters. That was one of the adjustments that helped UCLA win its first title four years later. Not Losing For Long "Long before any championships were ever won at UCLA, I came to understand that losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing," Wooden wrote. "You must simply study it, learn from it and try hard not to lose the same way again." Wooden spent minimal time studying his opponent. He focused on what he could control -- his team's preparation and conditioning. "I did less scouting than any other coach I've ever heard about," he wrote. "I wanted our team to concentrate on what we could do -- namely, try to execute our style of play to the best of our abilities." As a player, Wooden wasn't blessed with great size. So he bolstered his other skills. "I worked very hard on conditioning for quickness and speed," Wooden wrote. Anyone can apply that same focus to his or her own goals, Wooden says -- but it takes hard work. "People usually know what they should do to get what they want," he wrote. "They just won't do it. They won't pay the price."
Leaders & Success-Aug 18, 2003