Book ReviewsYouth strength and conditioning

Wooden – Book Review

John Wooden is a legend in the sport of Basketball. He was an All-American 3 times a s a player, he was the first person to inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach and is largely regarded as one of the most successful sport coaches EVER. He won  10 NCAA championships in 12 years with UCLA. So, it’s fair to say he probably has a few good ideas on coaching…



Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

Authors: John Wooden and Steve Jamison

Topic: Psychology, Mindset, Coaching

Appropriate for: Anyone

Overall rating: 5/5 – go and read it NOW!

This book is formatted into little snippets on different themes/topics. You can literally read it for 30 seconds and find something valuable, or read it for hours at a time. I took plenty of pages of notes in my reading journal as it’s full of nuggets of wisdom both for sporting environments and day to day life. I found so many of these hugely thought provoking both on a professional and personal level. I’ve included some of these below before pulling out what I think may be some very useful questions for coaches!
“You must realize that the goal will simply be a byproduct of all the hard work and good thinking you do along the way – your preparation. The preparations is where success is truly found. The outcome of a game is a byproduct of the effort made to prepare.”
“Adversity often produces an unexpected opportunity. Look for it, appreciate it and utilize it. This is difficult if you’re feeling sorry for yourself.”
“You must take what is available and make the very best of it.”
“You have little say over how big or strong of smart or rich someone else may be. You do have – at least you should have, control over yourself and the effort you give toward bringing out your best in whatever you’re doing.”
Here is a great snippet that was titled “6 of life’s great puzzles”, however it is so relevant to sport coaches, it could easily be called “6 of coaching’s great puzzles”. I’ve expanded a little underneath to prompt some further thought:
1. Why is it easier to give others blame than credit?
As coaches do we equally share credit and blame? Or do we prefer to take the credit and lay the blame equally at someone else’s feet? I’ve often seen coaches who openly take credit for their athlete’s success, yet are nowhere to be seen what defeat occurs…
2. Why is it easier to criticize than compliment?
Do we give our athletes more criticism or more compliments? There is more and more research suggesting that complimenting the characteristic you want to se more of, is a better strategy that highlighting the negative and thus reinforcing it
3.Why is it that so many who are quick to make suggestions, find it so difficult to make decisions?
Isn’t this true! How many over-zealous parents are keen to tell you how, what and where they child should train, play etc. yet are happy to sit on the sideline. Armchair critics/coaches are plentiful, yet coaches are often in short supply. If you’re an armchair coach – why not put your money where your mouth is and get some “skin in the game.”
4.Why can’t we realize that it only weakens those we want to help when we do things for them, that they should do themselves?
This is also spot on. Are we encouraging leadership and autonomy in our athletes by having them collect equipment, clean their boots, fill the bottles or even lead the warm up/cool down? Or are we spoon feeding them everything, from picking up after them to telling them exactly where to position themselves, pass, run or jump? Picking up on every error and giving explicit instructions on how to correct them? After all, how can we create future decision makers, if we are making all the decisions for them? If the All Blacks, sweep the sheds and hold themselves to account – isn’t that good enough for the rest of us?
5.Why is it so much easier to allow emotion rather than reason to control our decisions?
We love sport. That’s why we do what we do. However, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and behave incongruently to how we would like to, particularly as role models and coaches. We need to “keep a blue head” and “keep the main thing, the main thing”. Let’s focus on developing well rounded athletes and human beings, not purely winning matches/championships. After all that was Wooden’s philosophy and it ended up working out pretty well!
6.Why does the person with the least to say, usually take the longest to say it?
Less is More. If you’ve seen the Godfather, you’ll know when he talks in his quiet, whispering tone – everyone listens, because it’s important. In my opinion, a great coach takes something complex and makes it simple. This is true for every world class coach I’ve met. Unfortunately, in both sports science and technical coaching, there are a plethora of people making the simple incredibly complex. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s short, it’s simple and it’s a joy to read with direct application to every arena in life. Do yourself a favour and go get a copy.
You can find the book here: Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
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