John Wooden, affectionately known as Coach, led UCLA to record wins that are still unmatched in the world of basketball. Throughout his long life, he shared the values and life lessons he passed to his players, emphasizing success that’s about much more than winning.
Searching through a discount new and used bookstore one afternoon on a soccer roadtrip, I collected up four or five coaching / sports leaderships books under my arm and made my way to the counter. I had read most of the football manger biographies and went in search of new leadership stories from other sports. When in Rome, I picked out the greatest basketball and football coaches. John Wooden’s ‘A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court‘ and Phil Jackson’s ‘Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons as a Hardwood Warrior‘ were among them. Two fantastic sports coaching books, required reading for any coach.
As a young and aspiring coach / teacher, that small book served up one thought provoking anecdote after the other. I adopted / adapted many of his coaching techniques at Taunton’s College and I saw his simplistic, clear values impact upon the players I worked with. I softened my coaching style, coached less, shared more responsibility with the players and set fewer rules – but stuck to them. This book changed the way I coached and later the way I taught.
It is not a long book, I think I once read it cover to cover during a flight, but there was always one or two anecdotes that struck a cord with whatever I was currently coaching / teaching. Simple statemenst, values and maxims littered the book, but one maxim I can clearly recall from memory;
The best way to improve the team, is to improve yourself.
I went on to read a few other Wooden books, sadly, none were a match for the little blue book. The Amazon reviews say it all, the American Amazon reviews show 77 of 79 reviewers gave the book 5 stars. The official John Wooden site.