Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Coach Wooden's Practice Plan Was a Recipe

Coach Wooden’s Practice Plan Was Like a Recipe

Swen Nater


At some point after his retirement from UCLA as head basketball coach, John Wooden graciously allowed someone to borrow all of his 1948-1975 practice plan three-ring binders. Coach kept one three-ring notebook for each year and they contained all the practice plans for that basketball season, complete with all the notes he had carefully taken during the practices. These remarks were thoughts and ideas about improving things that were generated while he observed practices. Yes, Coach Wooden had paper and pencil in hand while teaching. There were comments about players, drills, the offense, the defense, the full-court press, out of bounds plays and what have you. Whatever came to mind that Coach believed would improve things that season and in the future, he wrote down on his 3X5 practice plan card.


After practice he and his assistants sat down briefly in their locker room to go over the notes and to discuss how each felt practice went that day, including suggestions for improvement. The next morning, Coach transferred the notes to the practice plan which was types on an 8 X 10 paper with three holes. Then he filed it in the three-ring notebook to be used for planning that day’s practice, and equally as a reference for the following seasons.  


When he told me about his detailed and scientific method, which impressed me greatly and shed even more light on the reason for his coaching success, I asked if he would kindly show me one of those notebooks. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the person who borrowed them didn’t return them and I have no idea who it was.”


What exactly was written on those practice plans? If we could only see some of those notes, it would give us great insight as to how all coaches can help their teams to be the best they could be. But we don’t have them and all we can do is guess. But guess we will, and I think we can pretty-accurately speculate what was in those treasure binders. Those notes were there to improve practice. The better the practice, the more success in games.  


I do a lot of cooking from Mexican to Chinese and I have a three-ring recipe book that has probably two hundred recipes. All of those recipes are ones I have cooked many times and they are covered with notes that I enterd that evening or the next morning. For example, I have made fried chicken forty-seven times in the last three years, each time doing something to improve it and then adding notes on the recipe regarding what worked and what didn’t as well as ideas for improvement.


My original goal was to clone KFC and my Version #47 is very close. After cooking Version #46, which was excellent fried chicken by the way, I wrote down,


“I still can’t taste the seasoning that well. I think it gets diluted in the oil when frying. What would happen if I season the chicken after I turned it? I should taste full seasoning.”


That’s what I did for Version #47 and it worked. KFC has nothing on my fried chicken. The seasoning is so close, I thought I heard the Colonel say, “Nicely done son. Somebody finally got it.”


All of my recipes have notes and each time I cook one, it’s improved over the last time. My enchiladas have seasoned, tender pulled chicken with a sauce that no Gringo has a right to make; my corn tortilla steak tacos has flank steak that is more tender than a rib eye and when you taste the seasoning, you are transported south of the border. But that flank steak was tough the first time I made it and the taste was Gringo-bland.


This is exactly what Coach Wooden did for his practice sessions. The recipe for his practice was the “practice plan” and that plan was not made from scratch that day, like many coaches do. The first thing he did was pull out the same practice number from last year and the year before to check the recipe and the notes he had taken for improvements. Then he pulled out the practice plan from the day before to see what notes he had on how they were doing with implementing things for that season. From all of that, he created the practice plan and it looked very much like the one from a year ago, but with improvements, much like putting seasoning on the chicken after frying.


Who does that these days? Who has ever done that? Not too many if any. But this type of work is a reason why John Wooden was able to win and win for many years. He just kept getting better. While the USC coach was scratching his head in the morning, wondering what his team should work on that day, Coach already had the practice plan template. All he needed to do was improve it, using his notes.  


Bon Appetite.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier

By Swen Nater


I cry when pompous orators,

Omit me when they teach,

And thereby steal the credit,

For the freedom of their speech.


I cry when cunning lawyers,

Make their case, and all the while,

Forget that I’m responsible,

For a fair and speedy trial.


I cry when news reporters,

Don’t reserve in their address,

One word to give me tribute,

For the freedom of the press.


And politicians make me weep,

In speeches that they wrote,

When they don’t mention, my shed blood,

Preserved the right to vote.


I am the Unknown Soldier,

Unknown for what I’ve won.

Buried in the ground am I,

And all that I have done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Three Poems that Will Change Your Life

Three Poems that will Change Your Life

The Road Ahead or the Road Behind
George Moriarty

Sometimes I think the fates must grin
As we denounce them and insist,
The only reason we can't win
Is the fates themselves have missed.

Yet there lives on the ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves,
The shining trophies on the shelves
Can never win tomorrow's game.

So you and I know deeper down
There is a chance to win the crown
But when we fail to give our best,
We simply haven't met the test,

Of giving all and saving none
Until the game is really won.
Of showing what is meant by grit,
Of fighting on when others quit.

Of playing through not letting up,
It's bearing down that wins the cup.
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score,

Of dreaming there's a goal ahead,
Of hoping when our dreams are dead,
Of praying when our hopes have fled.
Yet, losing not afraid to fall,
If bravely we have given all.

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.

And so the fates are seldom wrong,
No matter how they twist and wind.
It's you and I who make our fates,
We open up or close the gates,
To the road ahead or the road behind.

The Little Chap Who Follows Me

A careful man I want to be;
A little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he'll go the self same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whate'er he sees me do, he tries.
Like me he says he's going to be;
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I'm so very fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summers' sun and winters' snow,
I'm building for the years to be;
The little chap who follows me.

How to Be A Champion
Grantland Rice

You wonder how they do it.
You look to see the knack.
You watch the foot in action,
Or the shoulder or the back.

But when you spot the answer
Where the higher glamours lurk,
You'll find in moving higher
Up the laurel-covered spire,
That the most of it is practice
And the rest of it is work.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beginning Reading Right

Beginning Reading Right

Swen Nater (summarized from Why Our Children Can’t Read, McGuinness)


For most children, reading kicks into gear at age 6. At that time, or whenever it happens, a child needs to be equipped to unlock the English written code (the letters).  


3 Skills Needed to Unlock the English Written Code

Letters are symbols for sounds. In spoken words (e.g., cat), there is a sequence of sounds (first /c/ then /a/ last /t/). The Code for that word (the letters) is arranged from left to right (first “c” then “a” last “t”). Children who know how to unlock “cat,” match the letters to their sounds, in order. Children who can’t do this usually guess at words they don’t know.


There are three tools a child needs to unlock the code. (Remember, this does not need to be done overnight. Take it one skill at a time.)

  1. Segmentation (separating the sounds with the ears, in order)

Letters c, a, t are on the table in random order, not “cat.”


Teacher: What is the first sound you hear in cat?

Child:  /k/.

Child takes cut out “c” and puts in front of him.


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /a/

Child places “a” to right of “c.”


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /t/  

Child places “t” to right of “a.”


  1. Blending (making a word out of individual sounds)

Cut out letters are placed on table in the form of a word (e.g., cat). Teacher (pointing to first letter): What sound is this?

Child: /k/


Teacher (pointing to second letter): What sound is this?

Child: /a/


Teacher (pointing at third letter): What sound is this?

Child: /t/


Once all the sounds are identified, teacher points to, and asks for sounds, faster this time.


Teacher: What is the word? (If he can’t read it, have him say the sounds faster, or help him say them.)

Teacher: Write each letter and say the sound as you write that letter.

Child does that.

Teacher (pointing at the word): What word is this?

Child reads the word.


  1. Moving Sounds Around (hearing the same sound in different parts of the word)

Cut out letters (2 vowels and 4 consonants he knows) are placed on table.


Teacher: Spell cat.

Child arranges cut-out letters to form the word.


Now change cat to bat.

Child removes “c” and replaces with “b.”

Example of a sequence: cat, bat, mat, mot, pot, pom, pam, tam, bam, bom.


A child who is taught in this way, will understand how the code works and will have the skills to unlock new words. No guessing necessary.  


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Basketball Game



Two teams prepared with all their might,

To see which is the best this night,

Two sets of parents sit and wait to fuel the fight. 


The game begins and a foul is called.

The offender lifts the one he sprawled.

Contaminating parents stand—viciously appalled.


As players play, they gain esteem,

For talents on the other team,

While hatred for their foe infects the parents’ vile scream.


Ten players, equal on a floor,

Comparing only by the score,

While parents judge parents on where they live and what they wore.


The game is over. Both teams converge.

“Good game.” The hands and eyes, they merge.

The self-segregated parents refrain and resist the urge.


Two teams displayed how life should be,

While tainted parents did not see.

They leave the gym, and take along their bigotry.

                                                Swen Nater


Thursday, June 18, 2015

I Must Be All of That Today


I Must Be All of That Today

Swen Nater


See them play? I’m their football coach.

See that tackle? I taught him that approach.  

See, that throw? I taught that shoulder turn.

See that catch? It’s all because of my concern.  

See that block? It took a month for him to learn.

With this ball and whistle, I can teach them how to win.

And how to take the game on the uphill spin.

But to teach them how to be real men who care,

Who love and work and build and share,

And vote and help and give and pray,

And walk far from the wicked way,

I must be all of that today and every day. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Greatest Reading Drill Ever

Letter-Sound Maneuvering (LSM)

For many years, I was a reading therapist. I have helped hundreds of struggling elementary school children improve their decoding skills several grade levels in just weeks. I used exercises that made children hear the different sounds of a word, in the order they occur, sometimes called, "Phonemic Awareness." That term just means, being aware of each sound of a word and where that sound happens.

If I were asked to help a struggling child, but I could choose only one of the many drills I used before, without question that would be a drill I call, "Letter-Sound Maneuvering" or (LSM). This drill, by itself, teaches phonemic awareness and the best thing is, it does it implicitly.

Cut out letter: a  c  t  b  e  f 

have all letter available at top and ask child, "spell cat." Child should bring c  a  t down to make the word. If not, you do it.

Ask child to say each sound  /k/  /a/  /t/  and then ask her to blend them into the word.

Ask child, "If this is cat, change it to bat. When you say the word, run your finger under the letters at the same time.

Child makes the change. Help if you need to.

Ask child to say sounds and blend again.

Ask child, "If this is bat, change it to bet."
and so on an so forth.

You can create nonsense words also, like feb or fab. In fact, when there is no meaning, the child can concentrate on the sounds completely.

Create your own letter groups like u  i  t  p  s  m  Advice: group should contain only two vowels. Make sure the vowels are short.

Enjoy and watch the miracles. Children will be on their way to being master word attackers.

The Takeaway:
This drill teaches the direct relation between a sound and the letter that represents it. There is not need for letter names. Don't use them. You don't need them.
This drill, because children are moving sounds in and out of words, trains the child's eyes to see the details of the word, enabling them to then, later, see the difference between more complex words.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Suit
Swen Nater

Seeing the newspaper ad for a $50 tailored suit, a man paid the store a visit, was measured, paid, and told the suit would be ready the following Monday.

On Monday, the tailor had him put the suit on and stand in front of the mirror. The man noticed, while the right sleeve was the correct length, the left one was four inches too long, almost covering his entire hand.

He told the tailor and the tailor said, "Just gather the material at the top of your shoulder and hold it down with your chin. Now it's the right length. What do you want? It's a $50 suit."

The man was OK with this but then noticed his right pant leg covered his entire shoe while the left one was just the right length. When he told the tailor, the tailor said, "Just pull on the trouser at the waist, gather it up, and secure it with your right hand. Now the length is perfect. What do you want? It's a $50 suit?"

So the man left the store and, while he was awkwardly walking down the sidewalk, his neck holding the left sleeve up and his hand holding the right pant leg up, two elderly women watched him from the opposite side of the street. One said to the other, "Martha, look at that poor deformed man!" Martha replied, "Yes, but doesn't the suit fit nicely?"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Youth Coach's Creed
1. I will have high expectations for my players and will monitor their progress.
2. I will make best use of each player's talents and abilities.
3. I will give each player the treatment that has been earned and that is deserved.
4. I will always put the team's best interest before the player's best interest.
5. I will maintain status differentiation.
6. I will create an environment of exploration, trial, and ideas.
7. I will make practice as game-like as possible.
8. I will try my best to win but will not compromise my principles for it.
9. I will practice continuous improvement through self-criticism and research for best practices.
10. I will, at all times, set an example of what an adult should be.

Friday, February 27, 2015

10 Chef Secrets

10 Chef Secrets

1. Read the recipe and rewrite it the day before.

2. Use high quality and fresh ingredients.

3. Set out a bowl for garbage.

4. Save anything that will help make a stock.

5. Make few substitutions and make them wisely.

6. Prepare everything before cooking and have it within arms reach.

7. Hang a towel somewhere around your waist area.

8. Adjust the heat like you would a gas pedal.

9. Clean as you go. There is usually a window.

10. Finish when it's done, not when the recipe says it's done.


adapted from TWI (Training Within Industry)

Step I--BREAK DOWN the job.
             List all details of the job exactly as done by the present method.

Step II--QUESTION every detail.
             Why is this necessary?
             What is its purpose?
             Where should it be done?
             Who is best qualified to do it?
             How is the best bay to do it?

Step III--DEVELOP the new method.
             Eliminate unnecessary details.
             Combine details when practical.
             Rearrange for better sequence.
             Simplify all necessary details.
             Work out your idea with others.
             Write up you proposed new method.

Step IV--APPLY the new method.
             Sell your proposed idea to the boss.
             Sell the new method to the operators.
             Get final approval.
             Put the new method to work. Use it until a better way is developed.
             Give credit where credit is due.

Job Methods Training Program
War Manpower Commission

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Joshua Wooden's Seven-Point Creed

When John Wooden graduated from grade school, his father, Joshua, gave him this Seven-Point Creed to live by. He said he tried to live by it every day.

Be True to Yourself.
Make Each Day Your Masterpiece.
Help Others.
Drink Deeply From Good Books, Especially the Bible.
Make Friendship a Fine Art
Build a Shelter Against a Rainy Day.
Pray for Guidance and Give Thanks for Your Blessings Every day.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Student Contribution to Class Success

Student Contribution to Class Success
Swen Nater

The premise of my book You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned is, since John Wooden said, he learned how to coach by teaching high school English, many of the principles for successful coaching can be applied to classroom teaching. One of those principles is student contribution to class success.

As you might expect, at UCLA, some players played a lot in games while others spent the majority of the time on the bench. John Wooden's formula for winning allowed for only seven players to play. But by no means did that mean, the others, like me, were not major contributors to the championships.  On the contrary, the supporting cast played a large role, mostly by challenging the "starters" every day in practice.

For example, if the upcoming opponent had a very physical center, I was trained to play against Bill Walton exactly in that fashion, down to the very moves that player made. Likewise, when the opponent had a great outside shooter, another one of us "scrubs" would fill that role, casting long-range shots during practice, whenever possible. (It was kind of fun by the way.)

John Wooden didn't dispense very many words of praise in any given practice, sometimes not at all. But the majority of his encouragements were aimed at those that were not going to participate that weekend. Why? He wanted all of us "subs" to know, our contribution in practice was of equal value to the contribution of the starters in the games.   More than once, Coach Wooden told me, "You are giving Bill everything he can handle. Keep it up. It's making him, and us, better."

Is this possible in the classroom? You betcha. My 9th-grade journalism/poetry teacher, Mrs. Rochte, made it very clear in September, the goal of the class was for everyone to get the highest grade possible, even if that meant we all got As. Throughout the year and in many ways, she continued to make that point until we all bought in to that culture. Her plan was for all students to be engaged in assisting others and she created many opportunities for us to do so. In addition, some of us were given responsibilities such as taking attendance, sharpening pencils, handing out papers, and even grading quizzes. Mrs. Rochte made it a point to recognize contribution when it occurred. My friends, that wonderful culture that she and we created, made me look forward to school every day.

This type of teaching is not always possible but I believe it can be applied, to a degree, in every classroom.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Game of Life
Swen Nater

The Little League game was about to begin
On a perfectly wonderful day.
One team sprinted out
With a spirited shout,
As the boys were excited to play.

As their coach saw the field with his players in place,
A vision took over his sight.
Each Little League lad
Grew the age of a dad,
Complete with the beard and the height.

His pitcher, an artist, composed to create,
On a canvas awaiting and bare.
His stroke on the ball
Made it spin and then fall
As it curved and it carved through the air.

His catcher, a general, positioned in place,
Was leading the rest of the pack.
On his signal and sign
They joined to combine
With a quick and successful attack.

His shortstop, a surgeon, with quickness and skill,
When it seemed as thought death cast its fate,
On the double he caught
What the grave almost got,
And threw lifelessness out at the plate.

The outfield consisted of no lesser men.
Three statesmen with not one reproach.
On third was a preacher
On second a teacher
And on first, a Little League coach.

As the vision grew fainter, the coach stopped and thought.
The epiphany cut like a knife.
Baseball was more
Than a game and a score;
It was practice for the game of life.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

So You Want to be Seven Feet Tall? Think again.

Noticing my height  while we passed each other on the sidewalk, a gregarious lady stopped me today and boldly said, " Sonny! I wish I were that tall!" Does she really? If she only knew, how painfully-difficult it is for a seven-footer, living in an under six-foot world, I believe she would change her mind. So, if by chance you're reading this post, lady, let me explain.

When I stand up, my ears pop.

When in a hotel room bed, I accidentally turned the TV off with my foot.  

In airplane bathrooms, it is impossible to go. Thank Heaven for Flomax. 

I wrestle with the person who is sitting in front of me in airplane, as he tries to recline his seat.

Once I sat in the bulkhead seat and enjoyed stretching my legs into first class. The flight attendant asked for my credit card and charged me. .

In a packed movie theater, the person behind me says, "I'll just get the DVD when it comes out."

When close to an airport, I am required by law to wear a cap with a blinking light.

My shoes cover two zip codes. 

For rent-a-cars, I have to order one with a sunroof. 

As a youth, we went to the beach and I went in the ocean first. My sister asked my mother, "Can go in too?" She replied, "Not now; Swen's using it."

I'm 290 pounds. When I get on an elevator, it has to go down.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Remember Names

How to Remember a
Person’s Name


When you see a friend, the name pops into your head immediately.
That is because you have created a direct association between that person’s
face and the name. Association is made possible through repetition. Here is a
four-step plan.


  1. Association

Find a facial feature and make a bizarre

Example: Name is Doug. Feature is
big ears. Picture him digging a hole with his ear instead of a shovel. He Doug
a hole.


  1. Repeat
    the Name

When introduced, ask the person to
say the name again. Then, during conversation, use the name as much as possible
without overdoing it.

Example: You name is Doug, correct?
Nice to meet you Doug……..I was thinking, Doug, …… etc. When you say the name
while looking at the face, the association begins to strengthen.  


  1. Write
    the Name Down

John Wooden said, “If you want to
remember something, write it down.” After the meeting, write the name down and
say the name as you write it. Again, the association will strengthen.


  1. Recall
    the Name Later

During the rest of the day, recall
the person’s name a few times and then once the next morning.