Thursday, March 30, 2017


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?