The Wisdom of Coach John Wooden

The Wisdom of John Wooden


   Growing up and loving basketball as a youth, I became a huge fan of the legendary and record-making UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. Wooden became known as the ‘Wizard of Westwood’ as his teams won ten NCAA college championships. It wasn’t just his coaching prowess that made John Wooden famous, it was the way he lived his life and instilled character into his players and those who followed him.

   Wooden died recently after spending his remaining years in California and continuing to bless others with his wisdom and service. Coach Wooden was a man of faith, family and community. He was not just a basketball coach; he was a coach for the game of life. His famous Wooden ‘sayings’ became part of folk art to the players and fans of his generation. I am one of those fans.

   I wanted to share a few of those ‘Woodenisms’ with you as our thought for the day. As a boy and aspiring basketball player, I wrote the Wooden sayings on sheets of paper with a marker and hung them along the ceiling of my room. I committed them to memory and still quote them today. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Coach John Wooden:


   “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation; because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

   “Talent is God-given, be thankful. Fame is man-given, be humble. Conceit is self-given, be careful.”

   “The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.”

   “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

   “God never closes one door without opening another.”

   “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

   “You never fail if you know in your heart that you did the best you are capable of doing.”

   “Remember this your lifetime through, tomorrow there will be more to do and failure waits for all who stay on some success made yesterday. Tomorrow you must try once more, and even harder than before.”

   “If you do enough small things right, big things will happen.”

   “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”


   If you want to win in life, consider the wisdom above and you will get a great head start! Coach Wooden was not only admired, but beloved by his players. He was tough and a firm disciplinarian, but it only made his players love him more.

   Each of us is part of some team. We work on projects or assembly lines in our place of business. We are part of a group of volunteers or part of a campaign. Whatever we do, we must pull our share of the load and be accountable to others.

   Few of us will ever coach ten national championship teams or win eighty percent of the time we compete in a contest like Coach Wooden did. But we can take his wise advice by caring more about our character than our reputation – if you have good character, people will eventually figure it out. Whatever talents or gifts you were given by God, use them well, be thankful for them and don’t get the ‘big head'! If the team is successful, you will be too. Don’t ever think you ‘know it all’, keep asking questions and learning from others and from your mistakes. God is provident and cares about your future and has opened new doors every time you fail. Make plans and prepare for every task, and if you do your very best; don’t worry about the outcome. Don’t live on yesterday’s accomplishments, try something new! It’s the small habits and daily chores that propel us in life and make us successful. Be quick to do the right things, but never get in a hurry.

   Now get off the bench and into the game. You’re already a winner!

   Thanks Coach, we love you!