Friday, May 6, 2016

The Relationship Between John Wooden's Loyalty and Success

The Relationship Between John Wooden’s Loyalty and His Success

Swen Nater


When addressing his Pyramid of Success, for the block “Loyalty,” John Wooden said, “I wanted my players to be loyal to someone or something.” Why is that important for anyone with a desire to become the best he or she can be?


Addicts who are loyal to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, purposely-driven and enthusiastically-focused on completing each step, with the goal of fulfilling them all, are more likely to be sober for life than those who: Do not take the process seriously, Begin to compromise along the way, or Become overconfident at some point.


John Wooden understood that and put himself in subjection (became loyal to) three things. For living a good life, John Wooden was loyal to a creed his father gave him; for teaching, he was loyal to the practice plan; and for personal success, he was loyal to the Pyramid of Success.


Life (Joshua Wooden’s Seven-Point Creed)

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.


On several occasions, I heard Coach Wooden say, “I tried to live up to it,” referring to the seven point creed his father gave him (and explained) when Coach graduated from grade school. From personal experience, I know he fulfilled all seven points. In the process, he became one of the best people I have known.


Work (The Practice Plan)

For every two-hour practice session, John Wooden spent at least two and one-half hours planning. Referring to the same practice he had the year before and the year before that, and also notes he had written to himself about the needs of the current team, Coach created the practice plan for that day on notebook-sized paper. That plan was then copied to 3X5 cards which he used during the practice session.


Once the plan was written on the cards, it was set in stone. No changes were made before practice or during. Tempting as it may have been while he was teaching (to do a drill a little longer, a little shorter, or add something he forgot to put in or thought it might be good to put in), the plan was followed to the detail and minute. Anything that he thought should have been changed, added, or deleted, was written on the back of the cards during the practice and transferred to the notebook paper the following morning, as suggested improvements.  


Success (The Pyramid of Success)

Inspired by something his father said, “Don’t try to be better than someone else but never cease trying to become the best that YOU can be,” and by a stanza in a poem written by George Moriarty, The Road Ahead or the Road Behind,


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.


John Wooden created his definition for success,


“Success is the peace of mind that is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”


To provide a step-by-step method for realizing success, he built his Pyramid of Success.


Although Wooden wrote the definition for his high school students, and fashioned the structure to help them feel successful, especially those who did not have the talent to get an A in his high school class, he followed the Pyramid himself from the early 1930s to the day he went to be with the Lord. According to him, following the Pyramid was responsible for the knowledge he gained, for it demanded a conscious effort for continuous improvement.  


Would John Wooden have been as great a person without following his father’s creed?  Would he have prepared his teams if he changed the practice plan mid-stream? Would he have learned as much about basketball without the Pyramid of Success?



Monday, February 8, 2016

Roland "Fattty" Taylor and the Beer Cart

Fatty Taylor and the Beer Cart
Roland, "Fatty" Taylor (La Salle University) was my teammate on the Virginia Squires back in the 70s. We had a terrible team. We lost almost all of our road games. Fatty was a six foot point guard who was an excellent dribbler, accurate passer, and skilled defender. But he had one weakness: He couldn't shoot. Well that may not be entirely true. Fatty could shoot but he just could not make a shot beyond ten feet from the basket.   Up to the game I'm going to tell you about, he had tried two three-point shots (we had the three-pointer before the NBA) and he missed them both. One was an air ball. Luckily we were at home and he didn't' get any flack from the crowd. 

We travelled to Louisville, KY to play the Colonels who were the best team in the league. They had 7'2" Artis Gilmore, 7'0" Dan Issel, and a host of other great players, all of whom could shoot way better than Fatty.

As usual, we got into town the night before and the next morning drove to the arena for a shoot around. We were going to get a feel for the rims (as if that was going to help us) and work out a game plan to win the game that night (which was also a waste of time).

When we arrived for the practice session, we noticed the portable floor had been put down, but the rest of the arena was dirt. You see; they had a rodeo the night before and were still setting up for the basketball game. First things first. Although the "little doggies" had long gone home, their poop smell was still present, and I mean it was strong.

Another thing that was left from the rodeo was a beer cart which was positioned right in front of our locker room. As we passed it, I tested the Pabst Blue Ribbon tap and found the pressure to still be on. Beer was coming out. But that was not the time or place to drink beer for it was morning. I told Fatty about it, he tested the Budweiser with the same results. 

I didn't give it another thought the rest of the day but when we arrived early evening for the game, the cart was still there. I thought, 'Naw! Certainly they turned the pressure off.' But to my surprise, it was still on. But that was not the time nor place for drinking beer; I had a game to play.

At the end of the first half, we were already down by twenty points. We were being beaten so badly, Fatty tried two more three-pointers and bricked both badly. As we approached the locker room, he and I were walking side by side. The beer cart was still there. I said, "Fatty. That beer cart is still there. I wonder if it has pressure." Fatty looked around for the coach and found he was still on the floor gathering our impressive statistics. He figured, that was the time for beer, so he tried the Pabst and it still worked. There happened to be a totem pole of large plastic drinking cups on the cart. Fatty filled one up to the brim and chugged it. The coach had no idea but we all knew because I went in the locker room and announced it.

As we walked to the court to start the second half, Fatty, although almost always in good spirits, was in an even better mood than usual. The second half started and the first time we got the ball, which was after the Colonels scored of course, Fatty dribbled the ball up the court and stopped at the top of the key. His defender, wise as he was, backed off to almost the basket area because he knew Fatty would not shoot from there. But he didn't know Fatty had chugged 25 ounces of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Fatty launched the three-pointer and, what do you know, nothing but net.

Our entire bench, including the head coach, assistants, and trainer, looked at each other with confused but delighted faces. They stood up and clapped, but while they were applauding, Fatty stole Kentucky's inbound pass, sprinted out to the three point line like he had to go to the bathroom or something, and catapulted another three as he was falling out of bounds into the lap of a rich lady with a sequenced dress and a glass of gin and tonic. The ball hit the bottom of the net. Three plays later, he hit another one.

And that's the story of Fatty Taylor and the Beer Cart. There is no moral of this story; at least I hope there is not. That never happened again but I heard Roland "Fatty" Taylor switched from Coors to Pabst.