Faithful Wisdom from Coach Wooden

Faithful Wisdom from Coach Wooden

Faithful Wisdom from THE Coach of the Past Century: John Wooden


John Wooden (1910-2010) lived within four months of being 100 and had a profound influence on those he coached.  He is famous for building the UCLA basketball dynasty that won 10 NCAA national championships (including seven in a row), eighty-eight straight games and four non-defeated seasons.  He was a public figure and a man of faith who made no apologies for being a Christian.  Wooden read the Bible every day, sometimes more than once.  He kept a New Testament on his desk which players sometimes thumbed through while waiting for him to get off a phone call.

Wooden’s  favorite passage of Scripture was 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  He was known to say, “Love is the greatest word in the English dictionary.”  He was living out one of his more common sayings:  “Drink Deeply from Good Books, Including THE Good Book.”

While basketball was obviously important to Coach Wooden, at the “same time he always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate.  It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live.  There is only one kind of a life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.” Wooden served for years as a deacon of the First Christian Church in Santa Monica.  Sundays were set apart for him as time for worship and family.

Over the years, Wooden distilled his thoughts into sayings which he called maxims.  “I have a fondness for maxims because they convey so much with so little.”  What follows are some of his influential maxims:


Don’t mistake activity for achievement.

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future. (quoting his father)

You’ll be much happier if you spend as much time thinking about your blessings as you do about your troubles.  In this regard, it is helpful to forget favors given and remember those received.

Make each day your masterpiece.

A player who makes the team great is better than a great player.

The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.

Be quick, but don’t hurry.

If you keep too busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.

Success is never final.  Failure is never fatal.  It’s courage that counts.  (quoting Churchill)

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.

Happiness begins where selfishness ends.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

There is nothing stronger than gentleness.

“I pray Thee, O God, that I may be beautiful within.” (Quoting Socrates)

Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.


He would quote a favorite Poem from Henry Van Dyke:


Four things a man must do /  If he would make his life more true / To think without confusion clearly /  To love his fellow man sincerely  / To act from honest motives purely / To trust in God and heaven securely.


Coach Wooden’s strong personal devotion is illustrated by a story he told:   “In 1943 when I was entering the Navy, my pastor gave me a little silver cross to carry with me.  I still have it and, in fact, held it in my hand for every single game I ever coached when I returned from the service—not for good luck, not to help us win, but to remind me of who I am.  When my final day arrives, if you search my pocket you will find that little silver cross.  It served me well.  I hope I served it equally well.”    LH



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