Thursday, August 12, 2004

Totally Unrelated to Politics And War

This is from John Wooden's latest book, My Personal Best. I love college basketball above all other sports, and am always interested in what Coach Wooden has to say, which usually is applicable to life outside sports. I recommend the entire book, of course; here's an excerpt from pp. 103-104:

I was comfortable being a disciplinarian, but did not want to be an
ogre. Therefore, when discipline was required, I tried to dole it out in a
manner that was firm but fair, with no emotionalism or anger attached.
Anger prevents proper thinking and makes you vulnerable.

For example, Bill Walton would argue vehemently that he had a right to wear
long hair. I would remind Bill-- very firmly, but without anger-- that I
also had a right-- namely, the right to choose who was on the UCLA team.
Bill would think about it for a moment, then get on his bicycle and pedal down
to the Westwood barbershop for a trim. (People have asked me if I would
have suspended Bill for long hair. My answer: "Bill thought so.")

It never got personal, because the purpose of criticism or discipline is
not to punish, embarrass, or ridicule, but to correct and improve. It is
very difficult to antagonize and teach at the same time. For this reason I
avoided criticizing a player or the team at the end of practice, because the
effect lingers and is magnified. I violated this only on occasion when a
serious jolt was called for: "A team must have leadership and I am the leader of
this team. You needn't follow me blindly, but I do require that you follow
me." Sometimes the youngsters needed to think about that message

I began concluding each practice on a fun note by running a drill that
players liked. For example, I might designate a yong man to make five free
throws in a row at different baskets before the team was dismissed to the
showers. The whole group would gather around to hoot and holler depending
on the shooter's results. Of course, it also allowed that player to
practice free throws under pressure, and I always picked someone who needed
practice. . . .

All of this was an upbeat finish to our two-hour practices, which were so
exhausting that occasionally players would tell me the next day, "Coach, I was
too tired to change clothes before I went to bed last night." I was hoping
this also meant they were too tired to cause any mischief.


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