Saturday, January 12, 2013

John Wooden

The first time I heard of John Wooden I was listening to a talk on leadership that I already wasn't impressed with.  When he was mentioned and the speaker explained who he was, in my mind it reiterated the lack of knowledge the speaker had, and I thought, "Big deal.  A coach?  That's all they could come up with?"

Don't think that about John Wooden.

I think Luke 22:32 describes John Wooden perfectly.  He was "converted" to living well with a deep value system, and then he went about strengthening others with that.  John's father was his example in that, giving him a seven point creed to try to follow, including "Be true to yourself," "Make each day your masterpiece," and "Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day."

It's interesting studying a sports figure verses a political figure, businessman, or religious leader.  Not only do you see the effects, but you get all the stats to really prove how great they are.

John started out as a great basketball player.  He was the Basketball All-American for 3 years (the first person to do that), was a college player of the year, and the college scoring champ for the year.

The year before John coached at UCLA the team had 12 wins and 13 losses.  His first year (1948) they had 22 wins and 7 losses, and in 1949 they had 24 wins and 7 losses.  As it was pointed out during our class discussion, he was probably dealing with essentially the same players that had been on the 1947 team, so a great leader does make a difference.  John retired in 1975, and in the 12 seasons leading up to that his team were National Champions 10 times, including 7 in a row (still a record).  In that same time period they had 4 perfect seasons, with 30 wins and no losses.

John Wooden was the first person to be inducted to the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

But enough with the stats.  People knew he was a great coach, but it wasn't until after he retired that his leadership wisdom became more widespread.

A few of my favorite quotes from him (there are LOTS):
-- "Discipline yourself and others won't need to."
-- "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others thing you are."
-- "Never try to be better than someone else.  Learn from other, and try to be the best you can be."
--  "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the best effort to become the best of which you are capable."

In discussing character, there are many stories that show John's.  In 1947 the team John was coaching was invited to play in a national tournament, but he refused to take his team since they had a policy against African Americans playing.  Also in 1947 Purdue wanted Wooden to be their assistant coach until the current coach's contract ran out, and be the head coach after that.  Wooden declined, not wanting to make the coach a lame duck coach.  In 1950 when that coach's contract ran out they invited him to be the coach.  John's wife didn't really like living where they were near UCLA and he wasn't sure he was where he wanted to coach so he considered it, until UCLA reminded him that he had insisted on a 3-year contract with them, and it had only been 2 years.  Feeling he would be breaking his word if he left, Wooden stayed.

John Wooden also believed that family was of utmost importance.  He was asked once if he runs his family like he runs his team.  He said no, I run my team like I run my family.  When he wife passed away in 1985, he wrote her a love letter every month and placed it on her pillow, up until just a few months before he died when his eyesight made it impossible.

John took 14 years to create what he called the Pyramid of Success, taking special care to choose the characteristics and their placement on the pyramid.  I didn't spend a lot of time studying this, but I want to.  If you glance over the pyramid, make sure you note that faith and patience are the "mortar" (as he calls it) of the whole pyramid.

The exciting thing about studying more recent leadership examples is being able to see and hear the real deal.  You can feel that John Wooden is a great person listening to him in this talk.

While planning who I would teach about to our Vanguard Youth homeschool group this year, I wanted to give the youth not only great leadership examples, but a variety of examples in different walks of life so they can see how people can be leaders in any walk of life.  John Wooden adds the biggest variety to our year, and it was definitely a meaningful study.

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