Wooden & Masterpieces

“When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece. Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that. This rule is even more important in life than basketball. You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better. Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be. It begins by trying to make each day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.”   -John Wooden

Its that time of year again. It’s the madness of March and the next three weeks will be filled with triumph of victory or the agony of defeat (thank you ABC’s wide world of sports) as we journey thru another NCAA basketball tournament. No college basketball coach has had the success of John Wooden with 10 NCAA championships in 12 years including an 88-game winning streak and according to ESPN, he is the greatest coach of the 20th century and some would say he’s the greatest coach ever.  Wooden was the UCLA Bruins coach from 1948-1975.   During his coaching career few matched his ability beyond the “X and the O’s” and getting his players to “buy in” to the team concept.

Wooden off the court is just as good.    He continues on about getting better each day,

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”

Coach Wooden was best known for his attention to detail. Beginning the first day of practice, he would instruct his players on the proper way put on their socks and tie their shoes. He describes it,

“I believe in the basics: attention to, and perfection of, tiny details that might be commonly overlooked. They may seem trivial, perhaps even laughable to those who don’t understand, but they aren’t. They are fundamental to your progress in basketball, business, and life. They are the difference between champions and near champions.
For example, at the first squad meeting each season, held two weeks before our first actual practice, I personally demonstrated how I wanted players to put on their socks each and every time: Carefully roll the socks down over the toes, ball of the foot, arch and around the heel, then pull the sock up snug so there will be no wrinkles of any kind.” There’s that attention to detail.

Im sure you could hear the mutterings of the star athletes when they came to practice that first day asking themselves, “Do you think we will see a basketball today or even this week?” Coach Wooden was worried about a blister that would result in an injury that could sideline a key player for a game or even a series of games resulting from the time spent to properly put on the socks and shoes.   Yes, he was elementary in his teaching but Wooden was “a process guy”. He was all about the process of becoming better and better each and every day as a player, and certainly, but more importantly, becoming better as a human being.

Wooden taught that every day you should strive to make that day a masterpiece and to follow your fundamentals. So with that, are you rocking your fundamentals? How’s your physical training? Mental training? (Reading personal development, the bible, religious text, improving at your job, how to be a better spouse, better co-worker, a better friend), how’s your nutrition? Rocking those veggies? Superfoods? rockin those too? Getting your Shakeology in every day? (its the Healthiest meal of the day, ya know!). How’s your sleep? Staying disciplined in your morning and evening routines to keep your fundamentals going strong?

If not, why not? Wooden again with more wisdom

“If you spend too much time learning the tricks of the trade, you may not learn the trade. If you’re working on finding a short cut, the easy way, you’re not working hard enough on the fundamentals. You may get away with it for a spell, but there is no substitute for the basics. And the first basic is good, old-fashioned hard work.”

Let’s strive today and this March Madness to keep the spirit of Wooden alive and remember what he taught us best about the human person “Success is the peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”


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