Lessons From A Legend!
By Stephen Doherty
“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do!”
–Former UCLA Basketball Coach, John Wooden
With the exception of my kids being born, the highlight of my life was interviewing legendary UCLA basketball coach-John Wooden, for my book, “To Father a Champion.” ( The Book (usachampion.com) The man was a coaching legend who won ten NCAA basketball championships in eleven years.
No coach has ever come close to matching his record or prowess in producing winning teams. Dozens of his former champion UCLA players like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, and dozens of others- went on to have All-Pro NBA careers. The word “Legend” is the most rarified title reserved for the very best. John Wooden exemplifies that word more than any coach that has ever lived.
Yet, despite his coaching accomplishments and accolades, it is secondary to the kind of man and human being Coach Wooden was. He had the kind of influence on his players off the court that didn’t just produce championships – but also the caliber of citizen that any of us would be proud to live next door to.
One can only imagine what it must have been like to have him as a coach for four years. Every player John Wooden ever coached counts basketball success as second or third to the influence Coach Wooden had on their lives.
Dozens of books have been written by and about John Wooden. He blessed us with hundreds of prolific and impactful quotations that permeated the national lexicon. I have selected but three that were meaningful and life changing for me:
“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” –Coach John Wooden
Hands down the best! The many lessons taught by honoring and respecting the mother of your children will be something they carry throughout their lives. I am a divorced dad, which often complicates this task, but makes it even more important to the growth and development of happy and well adjusted kids. If we can bestow upon our children just this one priceless gift, we will have enriched their lives beyond measure. And in the process–our own.
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit!” –Coach John Wooden
Recognition and fame are something we all seek and aspire to. It’s just human nature. The ability to subordinate our desire for fame and recognition in favor of a greater or a more necessary objective, in my opinion, is a state of grace not easily acquired but so worth attaining. It creates a level of confidence born of spiritual generosity that is hard to explain. The contribution to something meaningful and important becomes the badge of honor–not just the outcome.
“The Journey is the INN!” –Coach John Wooden
Perhaps my favorite. A reminder that the only true destination in life is the end of life. Everything else is merely part of our incredible journey. Once we allow ourselves to “arrive” in anything–like a shark that quits swimming, we begin a descent that can be hard to recover from. I think it’s why so many people who retire have difficulties defining their remaining purpose. I always revert back to this simple axiom, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” To me, loss of momentum in life is a signal that we’re closer to the destination than the journey.
John Wooden died in 2010, at the age of 99. I would like to convey this posthumous message to his kindness and generosity and impact on my life. “Thank you, coach!”
“You cannot teach a man anything.
You can only help him discover it within himself.”
– Galileo Galilei