Saturday, July 17, 2010

John Wooden - An Innovator of Men

“Develop the person first, the athlete second”.

John Wooden was the basketball coach at U.C.L.A. from 1948-1975.

He was perhaps the greatest basketball coach ever.

He may be the greatest coach of any sport, of all time.

His teams won 10 NCAA Basketball Titles in 12 years.

From 1967 – 1973 his teams won seven titles in a row.

This seven year streak is considered one of the greatest feats in sporting history.

He is a masterful Coach - a true genius.

His nickname was “Wizard of Westwood”.

Think of him as the Gable of Basketball.

­­­­­John Wooden was a miraculous man and certainly deserves the respect and admiration of the American people.

His priceless philosophy transcends all sports and his wisdom serves as a guiding light for all coaches and people no matter the sport or affilitation. I find his philosophy Universal and among the best in the world.

I’ve been doing some reading. Being somewhat of a sports-mined person, I’ve taken some time to study and analyze some of the greatest coaches of all time with the express interest to learn how they accomplished such previously unimagined feats.

I chose to focus on “how” these coaches were able to do what they did and the “reason” they could consistently end up on top and able to achieve the unachievable and impose the impossible.

I studied their philosophy and belief systems that are at the “seed” of their coaching genius for that is where you will discover the heart and soul of their methods.

Coach Wooden’s Universal Teaching Philosophy: Develop the person first; the athlete second.

When I first heard, “Develop the Person first, the athlete second”, I thought this kind of philosophy was great for someone of his prominence, respect and power but what about the rest of us coaches?

Certainly, that kind of coaching was made for only a small number and a very special kind of coach - and not me.

Furthermore, one might have thought “hey, this Wooden character is 98 years old – he’s an old gent who doesn’t know a thing about the real world or kids today” and conclude his game plan works only in basketball - or in the forgotten past.

And, if we really get down to it, one might think that he’s perhaps just trying to say something nice in the twilight of his career that has nothing to do with coaching basketball or any other sport for that matter.

As it turns out, John Wooden – as usual, was right on the money. And his miraculous way of coaching is not the unattainable, unrealistic out-dated, bogus advice some might think. Quite the opposite, it is, and will always be the best path for any and all coaches.

Coach Wooden is a master – a true genius.

He perfected something. He found a way to take something considered very difficult and make it look simple. He was truly a master of the game and master of communication.

Wooden considered himself not necessarily a coach but rather a “teacher”. He said we are all teachers to someone whether we realize it or not.

Many coaches have found success by way of inventing a new way to coach a sport and made some creative innovations. Coach Wooden was not one of them.

He was much better and more valuable. Innovators of the sport hail from a group of many. John Wooden was an innovator of men - and from a group of very few.

He didn’t merely develop his atheltes’ athletic skills and give them National titles; he developed the inner man and gave them a life.

Coach Wooden was a man who knew he was doing things the right way and pursued it with great passion and perseverance.

Through faith in his purpose, method and direction - and following his natural instinct that his major responsibility was to develop the person, he was rightfully granted the power of inspiration.

The power of inspiration is the Holy Grail of coaching; and also the Holy Grail of life.

If you stick to your inner feelings and choose to go the path you KNOW to be right, despite it being the path less traveled and perhaps full of staunch resistance, you will come into your own.

The right path, the path to the light is always the one less traveled…that’s the reason you need “the light”.

For simply following his natural instinct, and doing the right thing, John Wooden was granted the ability to champion one of the greatest sporting feats of all time.

The secret to Coach Wooden’s success is right in the Title: “Develop the person first, the athlete second”.

All coaches of all sports ranging from youth league volunteers to the professional coach ought to post this potent piece of wisdom on their bulletin board and share it with all those involved.

For this man who invented and lived it is a great man indeed.

I would imagine that coach Wooden learned a lot through his career and mostly because of his courageous decision to blaze a new trail laced in morality, integrity and some good old fashioned truth, albeit sometimes unpleasant, hard to swallow and inconvenient.

I bet his athletes heard a lot of truth from him - truth's that perhaps no one else had the nerve to tell them.

And I bet his former athletes and current friends love him for that and realize he gave them more, way more than trophies, titles and wins. He gave them life.

If everyone followed Coach Wooden's philosophy, our modern day sports world would be much better in all arenas.

His philosphy is universal and ought to be the game plan for each and every coach or teacher who ever hangs a whistle around his or her neck.

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