I was saddened on Saturday when I found that a man I admired had passed away. After 99 years of affecting the direction of sports in America and the world, Coach John Wooden is gone. A basketball coach at UCLA, Wooden never focused on winning, rather he focused on developing his athletes as people and defining each players skills. They chased their potential never trophies. But trophies came. Wooden was the most winning basketball coach in history training players like Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul Jabar and Magic Johnson (each in the hall of fame) to name a few. These men, great in their own right, stayed in touch with Wooden until the end and always refered to him as Coach. They often only made decisions with his consult and they shared every victory through their lives with him because they knew without him, they would never have been where they were.
Later in life Coach Wooden focused on implementing character in sports, especially in younger athletes. He is the driving force behind creating the Arizona Sports Accord, from which came Pursuing Victory with Honor and CharacterCounts! both of which Gymfinity follows, in fact Charactercounts! had named Gymfinity a Gold Medal Standard Club for character in 2005. Coach Wooden’s rules for character and sport are the basis for everything we do with our teams and classes at Gymfinity. In that respect Gymfinity feels a great loss, as our role model and our ideal is laid to rest.
Coach Wooden wrote several books, each one amazing in their own right, but my favorite is about an Inchworm named Inch and a Mouse named Miles. The two set out to discover the Pyramid of Success. I read this book to my son when he was just a baby, back when the material wasn’t as important as just hering my voice. But now at 5, Owen and I have read the book several times and each time we both find things in it that we can take away. I strive to have my children be successful, though my definition of success may be different from another person, success ultimately is the real goal. I am a coach and it sounds funny that I don’t have a goal to have my children win, my teams either. Strange as that may sound, my children and my teams are driven to attain personal goals, learning from failures (making them into successes) and performing every task with a signature of excellence. That is what I dream for my kids, team and family. Coach Wooden taught me that.
Success, says Coach Wooden, is a piece of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction of knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.
Not often is the passing of a stranger an event that makes my eyes well up. I knew that Wooden was older, near 100 and his death brought no surprise. But the feeling I have is like being led to the starting line by the greatest to ever run the race, and him disappearing as I round the corner of the race. There are 1000’s of coaches who will rise up and carry the torch that Wooden lit and if any of us can affect 1 tenth of the people who Coach John Wooden affected through his coaching, then each would be amazing. But the goal, as I learned is not to focus on outcomes, but to focus on the kids you have before you today.
Rest in Peace Coach, and Thank You.