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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success
Be Prepared for Anything By Falling in Love with the Details

Coach Wooden limited his scouting of opponents to a basic understanding of the strategy they might employ. Preparation? Coach commented on this perspective:

“One of my players, a very interesting person—some of you I’m sure have heard of Bill Walton—once said we had to send a manager, when we were dressing for a game, to get a program to find out who we were playing because I never mentioned the opposition, which is a little different.”

He never handed his players a scouting report on the other team.

Coach said, “I wanted the emphasis placed on the improvement of ourselves.”

It was his preparation for practice that translated to practices that created poise, confidence and self-control for the team. In his book with Steve Jamison, The Essential Wooden, Coach commented on practice:

“Everything had a purpose; everything was done efficiently and quickly. The whole practice was synchronized; each hour offered up 60 minutes.”

“We didn’t achieve conditioning by doing laps or running up and down stairs or doing push-ups. We did it through the efficient and intense execution of individual fundamental drills. A shooting drill was a conditioning drill the way I ran it. There was no standing around and just watching or resting in between. The players were always working and running and moving.”

“I would spend almost as much time planning a practice as conducting it. Everything was listed on three-by-five cards-inch down to the very last detail. In my later years at UCLA I would spend two hours every morning with my assistants organizing that day’s practice session (even though the practice itself might be less than two hours long). I kept a record of every practice session in a loose-leaf notebook for future reference.”

“When I planned a day’s practice, I looked back to see what we’d done on the corresponding day the previous year and the year before that. By doing that I could track the practice routines of every single player for every single practice session he participated in while I was coaching him.”

“By reviewing and analyzing everything, we were able to get the very most out of our practice time.”

It all began with attention to, and perfection of, details. Details. Details. Develop a love for details. They usually accompany success.

Photo by Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.