March Madness is here for just a few weeks, but the lessons that we can learn can be a part of our lives forever. I’m using college basketball’s greatest coach, Coach John Wooden, to look at the lessons he teaches us. These lessons are for parents, young people, business and church leaders. Wooden’s lessons made winners on the basketball court and in life.
- Coach Wooden didn’t always understand Gods plan, but he followed it. In 1944 during World War II he had orders to board the USS Franklin. He had an emergency surgery and his orders were canceled. The young man who took his place to go to the south pacific was at the battle station where Wooden would have been. That young man was killed by a kamikaze pilot. Wooden said he couldn’t explain that, but was more determined to seek and follow God’s will. Read Proverbs 3:5-6.
- He later was going from Atlanta to Raleigh for a summer basketball camp at Campbell College. He had his airline ticket, but had to cancel his flight and rebook it for the following day. The day he was supposed to fly, that plane crashed and everybody on board was killed. He always wondered why God had spared him, so he wanted his life to really count. All of us have been spared from a lot of things – are we really allowing God’s will to work out in our lives? Read Romans 8:28.
- Coach Wooden was always ready to change. He adapted the offence to the players he had. He won national championships with a low post offence when he had two seven-footers –Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. When he had shorter teams, he used the high post offence. He won national championships with strong forwards, and then he won with strong guards, and then he won with one big center. He always adjusted the offence accordingly. He coached according to his philosophy because he thought it was the best. If he found out that it wasn’t the best, he was ready to change. He said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be.” Most organizations can learn a lot here.
- Each year he would study in depth some aspect of the game. He spent one whole year studying rebounding. Rather than teaching the technique of boxing out, he wanted his players to get between the opposing player and the ball. He didn’t want them to keep the man they were guarding from getting the ball – he wanted them to go get it. It worked! His teams consistently out rebounded opposing teams, even when he had much shorter players.
- His dad taught him a wonderful formula for success. He said, “Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses. Don’t compare yourself to somebody else, but be the best that you can be.” That formula works!
- He and his wife, Nellie, had many metals indicating perfect attendance at church on Sunday. He shared that with his players. He said, “The only kind of life that truly wins, is the one that places faith in the hands of Jesus Christ. Until that is done, a person is on an aimless course running in circles and going nowhere.” He taught how to win at the most important game – the game of life! Read John 14:6.
How coachable are you?