Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Words John Wooden Never Used....

As many of my friends and family members know, I am on a personal crusade to get all of America to clean up its language. Profanity is everywhere—just walk down any city street or high school hallway and you won't have to listen long or hard. It has infiltrated our art; music— of all genres is rife with dirty lyrics. It now shapes our humor and fills our movies. For example, "The Wolf of Wall Street" set a new record when it dropped the "F-word" 506 times. In spite of this bad habit, I still believe that words have power—a lot of it. We must use them wisely. Cursing, swearing and speaking the profane compromises this power. Indeed, something is lost. Rather than write out what that is, I'll let my lack of words here speak to what that is....

Tonight, I attended the annual Back to School meeting for all coaches at St. Ignatius College Prep where I teach and now work with the junior varsity girls' golf team. Over 150 coaches gathered for the John R. Wooden Course: "Timeless Wisdom for Personal and Team Success." The curriculum teaches the values, character, leadership and "Pyramid of Success" behavior that the greatest coach of the 20th century, the Wizard of Westlake developed. 

The speaker Lynn Guerin pointed out that John Wooden is the Abraham Lincoln of athletics and coaching. One can never read enough about either man. I remember a course I took in college, "American Biography" taught me that every year, more and more books continue to be written about Honest Abe. The professor asked why. His usage of the Socratic method  in this instance was right on. Where should we start.... Lincoln saved the Union. Lincoln was born in a log cabin. Lincoln...

John Wooden isn't that much different. He was a prolific reader and writer. And he continues to be the subject of more and more articles and books. 

A lot of what I learned tonight captivated my attention and helped me as a coach. Two words John Wooden never used? Winning and losing. Who was his favorite person? Mother Teresa. He carried a small medal bearing her image in his pocket. He lived his life in a way that identified three priorities: 1. Master (God) 2. Mission (Purpose in life) and 3. Mate (with whom do you share the journey?) 

Dissatisfied with the definition of success in Webster's dictionary, he developed his own. To Wooden, success is "peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable." This drive to understand and meet success is why he developed the Pyramid of Success. Each building block is carefully placed and every piece supports and influences another. It took 14 years to create. Wooden reviewed his Pyramid of Success everyday. I consider it his "Daily Examen" a prayer that Jesuits consider the most important one we pray. 
Perhaps you know a lot about Wooden's coaching philosophy or maybe you know a little about what he did that made him successful. The list is very long. But the three rules he had for his athletes is what struck me most. Taking on a new team this year, I've thought a lot about what I want this new group of girls to learn from me. Wooden's rules are noble ones. They are:
1. never criticize a teammate.

2. never be late.
3. never use profanity.

An English major (and teacher) with a masters in poetry, Wooden also believed—deeply—that words have power. He said "there are so many words we can use to express our emotions. To limit oneself to the profane means we have lost self-control." And why is that a problem? Wooden viewed self-control as a core block on the "Pyramid of Success." It says, "Self-control is to practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgement and common sense are essential." This building block isn't limited to the usage of language but to all of our reactions. Basketball tests those reactions from the start of the game to its finish...sometimes even after.
I love the standards that Coach Wooden set for his team and for all of us who consider ourselves to be his students. He inspires me to work harder (Industriousness) and work toward "Competitive Greatness" the highest block on the pyramid. What you will see however, is that Faith and Patience are the true tip of the pyramid. They share the space, that triangle above Competitive Greatness. They work hand in hand. 

Wooden thought you should make everyday your masterpiece. I agree....so I'll keep working on cleaning up the language of the hallways where I teach, the courses where I play and where I will coach. And, I hope to do so without ever criticizing a colleague or teammate...As for being on time...that's another work in progress. I think the Pyramid of Success can help!

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