March Madness Coaching Life Lessons, Part 3 of 3

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Coach John Wooden was an all-American basketball player and a straight A student at Perdue.  Academics and athletics formed his background for coaching.  But his most effective coaching came from the fact that he knew the real meaning of life.  Wining for Wooden wasn’t scoring more points – it was knowing and following God’s will.  He said he always wanted his players to be dependent on God and to have Jesus in their hearts.  That’s a real winner!  Here are more lessons:

  1. Coach Wooden never complained about tough situations. When he went to UCLA, his teams had to practice in an old barn.  Before practice he had to sweep the floor to get rid of the dirt from the Physical Education classes that were held in the building.  They played their games at whatever venue in town was available.  He never had a home court advantage.  He didn’t complain – he just started winning games despite the conditions.  He always believed that you do not permit what you cannot do to interfere with what you can do!  A great lesson for life!  Read Philippians 2:14.
  1. Coach Wooden loved his players – but he did not spoil them. Of the 180 players who played for him, he knew where 172 of them lived and worked.  They constantly called him for advice.  But he didn’t spoil them.  He wanted his players to be disciplined enough so that when the game started, they were ready to meet any situation.  He didn’t want his players expecting to have time-outs during the game to ask for his advice.  He had coached them.  He said, “Once the game started I didn’t want them to need me.”


  1. He would often say, “If you give players too much, they don’t really appreciate it.” He would also say, “If people are hungry, give them fish, but after they’ve eaten teach them how to fish.  Don’t keep giving them fish – that would make them dependent on you for their food.”  It’s never good to take away anyone’s independence.  The only dependence Coach Wooden wanted his players to have was to be dependent on God.
  1. He wouldn’t allow any profanity. His discipline was to be in charge of their words as well as their emotions.  If a player used a word of profanity, he was done for the day and for the next game.  He would also remind them that if they never told a lie they would never have to remember what they said.  Read Ephesians 4:29.
  1. Coach would tell his players to never be afraid of making a mistake. If you don’t risk making a mistake you’ll never be able to face success.  He said that a player could make mistakes and not be a failure if you are giving your full 100% effort, which includes preparation and execution.  You’re only a failure if you give your all, and then blame someone else for your mistakes.  When you place blame, you’re making excuses – when you’re making excuses you can’t adequately evaluate yourself and failure is inevitable.  You will make mistakes – just be sure you make the right mistakes.  Read Hosea 4:4.
  1. He always taught that being a Christian takes a personal relationship with God, which only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He would ask people, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  He believed that his faith was more than something he said – it was also what he did.  Read James 2:17-19.

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