By Ken Reed

John Wooden was fond of saying “Sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

Building character should be a high priority for youth sports coaches. Unfortunately, too many youth sports coaches operate with a win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mindset. Developing strong character traits in their athletes are a secondary consideration, if they are considered at all.

Wooden was voted the greatest coach of all-time — in any sport — by the Sporting News. He won 10 national championships as the basketball coach at UCLA (twice as many as legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and more than three times as many as Indiana’s volatile Bobby Knight.

Wooden reached that level of success by focusing on a set of values and principles he called “The Pyramid of Success.” The Pyramid didn’t deal with basketball strategy, it was a set character traits which Wooden believed, if followed, would lead to individual and team success, and provide the foundation for a successful, meaningful and happy life after an athlete’s playing days were over. He saw it as a roadmap to becoming the best person you can be.

One of Wooden’s former players, Andy Hill, a reserve on three UCLA national championship teams, didn’t realize how much Wooden’s teaching positively impacted his life until 25 years after he left the UCLA campus. Upon reflecting on his successful business career, Hill realized his most valuable life lessons came from his basketball coach, John Wooden.

Even though Wooden passed away more than 13 years ago, if you’re a parent or coach of a young athlete, or a young athlete yourself, you can still learn a lot from Wooden about coaching and teaching young people. Before his passing, he collaborated on a lot of books, videos and leadership seminars, all of which are easily available on the internet.

Stephen Borelli recently wrote a nice piece for USA Today entitled, “5 Lessons Young Athletes Can Still Learn From the Legenday John Wooden.” It’s a good read for youth sports coaches, parents and athletes alike.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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