John Wooden’s Continuous Improvement
When a child, John Wooden’s father told him, “Never try to be better than someone else, but never cease trying to become the best you can be.” After graduating from college, he read George Moriarty’s poem, “The Road Ahead or the Road Behind.” The last verse reads,
For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span.
Giving all, it seems to me,
Is not so far from victory.
He them coined the definition for his Pyramid of Success,
Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing, you made the effort to become the best you can be.
From that time until the day he died, Coach Wooden made the effort, every day, to improve himself.
In the area of coaching basketball, his improvement plan was two-fold:
- Off-season research and development
- In-season notes to improve things
Off-Season Research and Development
Each off-season, Coach Wooden embarked on a comprehensive and exhaustive study on one topic, ranging from Xs and Os such as Out of Bounds Plays, Half-Court Offense, Full-Court Press, or Rebounding, to Non-Xs and Os such as Teaching, The Human Nature of the Athlete, Practice Planning, or Sports Psychology.
His method was:
Read everything written on the subject.
Send questionnaires to coaches who excelled in the area.
Implement those conclusions into the practice sessions and games.
In-Season Notes to Improve Things
During practice, Coach Wooden took copious notes on the back of the 3X5 card that contained the practice plan. He made notes about improving drills, helping certain individuals, better teaching methods and much more. Those notes were transferred to the next practice plans and tested. If they worked, they were set in stone.
No other coach took self-improvement, based on the motivation to reach one’s own example, this seriously. No other coach improved as much as John Wooden. No other coach won as many championships. Is there a connection?