Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Since I am from Indiana, South Bend to be exact, where John Wooden started his illustrious basketball coaching career in 1934, I was fascinated to read about his lasting legacy. In an era of 'more and me' he stands as an encouraging example of what sports can do for the character of those who play his game and apply his wisdom in life.

One of the most appealing apects of his legacy was his simple one or two sentence instructive messages. Phrases from his book, "They Call Me Coach" speak volumes of the type of man he was, including "What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player" and "Don't give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you." Another familiar favorite, "Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow."

His players will never forget his teachings or who he was as a person. Abdul-Jabbar said, "Coach Wooden used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation." Likening him to a disciplinarian parent who coached by example, Jabbar went on, "He really was a very selfless and giving human being and from him we learned about all aspects of life that most kids want to skip over today."

Even with his astounding accomplishments, Wooden remained humble and gracious. He led Martinsville High School to the Indiana state basketball championship before heading to Purdue where they were national champions his senior season and he was player of the year. He guided the UCLA Bruins to seven consecutive titles from 1967 to 1973 and a record 88-game win streak in the early 1970's. He only person ever to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach.

His life philosophy came from this advice his father gave him: "Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books-especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day."

Now that's an encouraging legacy that will last.

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